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Wednesday September 20th, 2017 12:39PM

The Latest: Sessions pledges more work against hate crimes

By The Associated Press

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on a Mississippi man convicted of federal hate crimes charges in killing a transgender person (all times local):

4 p.m.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department, under his leadership, will continue efforts to "vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes."

Sessions issued the statement Monday in connection with the sentencing of a Mississippi man following the first-ever conviction on federal hate crimes charges arising from the killing of a transgender person.

A federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Joshua Vallum to 49 years in federal prison, in addition to his life without parole sentence following conviction on state murder charges. Vallum acknowledged killing a transgender woman, 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, in 2015.

The case has been closely watched by LGBT advocates nationwide.

Demoya Gordon, attorney for the Transgender Rights Project of Lambda Legal, says she welcomes Vallum's conviction, but says she discounts Sessions' statement. She cites, among other actions, the Trump administration's reversal of guidelines that transgender students nationwide should be able to use school bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

___

2:30 p.m.

A Mississippi man has been sentenced to 49 years in prison for the first-ever conviction on federal hate crime charges arising from the killing of a transgender person.

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Joshua Vallum, who had previously been sentenced to life without parole on state murder charges.

Vallum acknowledged guilt in the 2015 death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson. The case had been closely watched by LGBT advocates nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola (juh-ROH'-lah) could have sentenced Vallum to life in federal prison, but stuck to a sentence suggested in a plea agreement between defense attorneys and prosecutors, citing Vallum's neglected childhood and other issues.

Prosecutors say Vallum killed Williamson to keep fellow gang members from discovering they'd been having sex. Latin Kings rules ban homosexual activity and declare a punishment of death.

___

3 a.m.

For the first time in the U.S., a person will be sentenced on federal hate crimes charges for killing a transgender person.

Joshua Vallum is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Monday in Gulfport, Mississippi, after pleading guilty in December to hate crimes charges in the 2015 death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson.

His sentence could be as long as life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors say Vallum lured Williamson into a car in Alabama, and drove her to his family's home near Lucedale, Mississippi. There, they say, Vallum attacked Williamson. Prosecutors say Vallum killed Williamson to keep fellow gang members from discovering they'd been having sex. Latin Kings rules ban homosexual activity and declare a punishment of death.

Vallum pleaded guilty earlier to murder charges in state court.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News
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