Joseph Dominick couldn't stand still.As he faced U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, only the second African American to hold a federal judgeship in Mississippi, Dominick, who is white and accused of going on a hate-crime bender with friends last year, shifted anxiously. He rubbed his dark beard, scratched the back of his head, straightened his bright-green polo shirt, folded his arms and put his hands into his pants pockets as Reeves went over the terms of plea bargain Dominick made with the government.
For almost one year, Dominick and his peers conspired to "willfully cause bodily injury to, and through the use of dangerous weapons, attempt to cause bodily injury to African American persons" in the Jackson area, according to the federal indictment.
Specifically, Dominick and "others known and unknown to the government" used beer bottles, slingshots and shod feet against blacks they believed to be drunk or homeless. Those who are known to the government include Deryl Dedmon, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of James Craig Anderson on the morning of June 26, 2011, Dylan Wade Butler, John Aaron Rice, William Montgomery and Jonathan Gaskamp, all of whom are from Rankin County and have pleaded guilty to hate crimes.
Neither Gaskamp nor Dominick went along for the ride that culminated with Anderson's brutal death in a motel parking lot, but prosecutors say that the furtherance of the hate acts the gang committed ultimately resulted in Anderson's death.
Although Dominick was not outwardly remorseful as prosecutors read the charges, he respectfully addressed Reeves as "sir" or "your honor" during the two-hour long hearing Jan. 3. Nor did Reeves seem to bear any ill will toward the young man who intentionally terrorized people who look like Reeves.
"You made a decision that will affect the rest of your life. But you can make a change, starting today," Reeves said at the end of the hearing.
During one trip, Dedmon hit an African American man in the back of the head with a beer bottle. On another, the Dedmon, Rice and Butler kicked another African American man in a west Jackson parking lot until he begged for his life.
Dominick and his friends also purchased bottled beer expressly to drink and use as ammunition in the assaults against black pedestrians, whom the group called n*ggers. During one incident, one of the gang members threw a beer bottle at a group of African Americans standing near the street, striking one of the people and knocking the person to the ground.
"Members of the group thought this was funny," said Sheldon Beer, who handled the government's case said in court last week.
Now 21, Dominick also carried a handgun for protection and, on one trip, the friends stopped at a sporting goods store for the sole purpose of buying a slingshot to shoot metal ball bearings at African Americans.
Dominick's mother told reporters after the hearing that the news of Anderson's killing made her vomit and that her son had no idea what his friends had done until she informed him. Barbara Young, Anderson's sister, said after the hearing that she wanted everyone involved in the crime spree to go to prison, including those like Dominick who did not directly participate in her brother's murder.
"Who knows how many of them where involved in those night rides?" Young told the Jackson Free Press.
Prosecutors noted in the indictment that Dominick and his fellow conspirators boasted about the attacks and recruited other "young, white men and women" to join them for assaults. So far, only men have been indicted, signaling more charges may be coming.
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