Three men accused of attacking a black man while he waited at a Houston bust stop were found guilty on federal hate crime charges Monday (April 16). Charles Cannon, 26, Brian Kersetter, 32, and Michael McLaughlin, 41, were all convicted by a federal jury on charges stemming from the vicious attack on victim, Yondell Johnson, last August.
The three men were found guilty on grounds that they violated the Matthew Shepard Act and the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, both of which were signed into law by Pres. Obama in 2009. “Today’s convictions…show that hate crimes are far too common in this country,” said Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, Thomas E. Perez. “The department will continue to use every available tool to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur.”
A jury concluded that the men, who were known to have affiliations with racist groups, approached 29-year-old Johnson, using racial slurs, before surrounding him. They then began punching and kicking the victim in the head and body “I couldn’t believe this was happening, and I thought I could be dying especially when they had me on the ground,” Johnson said. “I knew it still happened, but right here in my own back yard? Not really.” After a witness placed a call to 911, all the suspects were arrested at the scene. A fourth man, Joseph Staggs, was also taken into custody, but charges were dropped after he testified against his cohorts.
The three men were indicted on the charges back in January, following an extensive investigation held by the FBI and Houston police. Each of the men are facing the maximum of 10 years behind bars, and are scheduled to be sentenced July 16.