The three dudes who united over their white-power tattoos and then beat down a random black male at a downtown Houston bus stop are bound for federal prison.
On Monday at the downtown Houston federal courthouse, Charles Cannon, Michael McLaughlin and Brian Kerstetter were sentenced to 2-1/2 to 6-1/2 years in prison. The trio had been convicted for cornering and attacking Yondell Johnson -- an African-American man who was waiting to catch a late-night bus from a Travis and McKinney stop around midnight on August 13 -- due to his skin color.
On April 16, the three were found guilty for violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. According to the Federal Bureau Investigation and the Department of Justice, the conviction was the first of its kind in the state of Texas.
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Cannon, 26, will serve 37 months while McLaughlin, 41, will be locked up for 30 months. Career offender Kerstetter, 33, got the stiffest sentence -- 77 months -- due to a long criminal history that included his involvement in the assault of Johnson, who did not attend Monday's proceedings. The punishments were divvied by Judge Kenneth Hoyt in the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas.
Kerstetter was also the most vocal of the three during sentencing. After apologizing to Judge Hoyt for his actions, he added, "I'm not a hater. The only thing I truly hate in this world is the Dallas Cowboys." Well then.
"Hate crimes are different because not only do they hurt the victim but they also hurt an entire community," Robert J. Moossy, Jr. of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division said after the proceedings. He later added that the federal act -- which "criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury" due to the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation of another person -- is a "powerful tool," one that has been used to obtain convictions in Washington state, Arkansas and Mississippi.
Local activist Quanell X also addressed reporters, saying that he felt that Judge Hoyt was too lenient, but "I hope it sends a message nationwide that this behavior won't be tolerated."