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Mississippi man charged with hate crime for burning cross

JACKSON, Miss — A Mississippi man has been charged with a federal hate crime for burning a cross in his front yard to threaten his black neighbors, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.

Axel Cox, 23, was charged with one count of criminal interference with the right to fair housing and one count of using fire to commit a federal crime.

According to court records, Cox chose to burn a cross in front of a black family because of his race. He also allegedly addressed the family with derogatory racial language, records show. The incident happened on December 3, 2020.

Federal prosecutors said the Gulfport man violated his neighbors’ right to housing. The law that Cox is accused of violating falls under the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This law states that it is illegal for an individual to interfere with someone’s housing rights because of their race.

Vangela M. Wade, president of the Mississippi Center for Justice, said the burning of crosses is a reminder of overt racism in Jim Crow South.

“This is another stark reminder of how bigotry, racism, and hate-fueled violence are alive and well in our country. Mississippi is no exception,” Wade said. of Mississippi’s deep-rooted injustice and a brighter future continues. We are grateful for the courage of the members of the federal grand jury to indict this hate crime.

A grand jury indicted Cox in September. Court records were unsealed ahead of his first court appearance on Friday. Judge Robert Myers ordered that Cox be held without bond pending a jury trial, which is due to begin Nov. 7.

Cox could face several years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge if convicted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Cabell Jones for the Southern District of Mississippi and Noah Coakley II of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are pursuing the case.

Cox’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow him on Twitter at

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