A Mississippi man has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for burning a cross in his front yard to intimidate a Black family, according to a news release from the US Justice Department.
Axel Cox, 24, was sentenced to 42 months in connection to the cross burning, which happened in December 2020 and violated the Fair Housing Act, the release said, adding Cox “admitted that he lit the cross on fire because the victims were Black and that he intended to scare them into moving out of the neighborhood.”
Justice Department leaders condemned Cox’s actions, with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division calling them “an abhorrent act that used a traditional symbol of hatred and violence to stoke fear and drive a Black family out of their home.”
According to the Justice Department, Cox “wedged two pieces of wood together to form a cross, placed it in clear view of the victims’ residence,” following a dispute with the victims and “doused it in oil and set it alight. During this incident, Cox yelled threats and racial slurs toward the occupants of the house.”
In September 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Cox for interfering with the victims’ housing rights and using fire to commit a federal felony. An attorney for Cox, who did not immediately response to a request for comment Sunday, filed a notice of intent to change his plea in November 2022, and court documents indicate Cox pleaded guilty to the first count.
Cox’s prison term is set to be followed by three years of supervised release, per the Justice Department. He was also ordered to pay $7,810 in restitution.
“While one might think cross-burnings and white supremacist threats and violence are things of the past, the unfortunate reality is that these incidents continue today,” Clarke said.
“This sentence demonstrates the importance of holding people accountable for threatening the safety and security of Black people in their homes because of the color of their skin or where they are from.”