A white South Carolina man will spend 10 years in prison for attempting to hire a Ku Klux Klan hitman to lynch his Black neighbor and leave a burning cross in his yard.
In March 2018, an unnamed source tipped off police when 26-year-old Brandon Cory Lecroy reached out to a white supremacist group for help with the murder plot, reports the New York Times.
An F.B.I. agent posing as a hit man named “Mark” then contacted Lecroy about the plan. In their conversation, Lecroy said he had a “n—r neighbor” who was causing him trouble.
“I’ll call the damn Klan and they can throw a damn flaming cross in your (expletive) yard,” Lecroy said in that call, according to an arrest affidavit.
Lecroy also told the agent he planned to take over his neighbor’s property, according to an affidavit in the United States District Court in South Carolina. Lecroy offered to pay the undercover agent $500 for the killing. Once Lecroy made a down payment of $100, he was brought into police custody.
In October, Lecroy pleaded guilty to one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence, murder-for-hire. On April 12, Lecroy received the maximum of 10 years and three years of court-ordered supervision, according to a statement released by the United States attorney’s office in South Carolina.
During the trial, Lecroy’s public defender, Erica Soderdahl, argued that Lecroy’s case should not be considered a hate crime because his Black neighbor, referred to in court as “F.J.,” would come over to his house and antagonize him.
“The circumstances of this case are unique to this case,” Soderdahl said in court. “It’s not a generalized hate crime, it’s the case of Mr. Lecroy.”
The lawyer also claimed that Lecroy was a product of a broken home and “F.J.” often reminded Lecroy of his abusive father, reported the Greenwood Index-Journal.
“As a result of the abuse, Mr. Lecroy stalled at six years old,” she said. “He stopped learning in school.”
She also alleged that Lecroy never learned of the racist history KKK and said that the only reason why Lecroy wanted to hire a white supremacist was that he figured they would be the only people who would agree to follow through with the killing.
However, U.S. District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks and Assistant U.S. Attorney William Watkins Jr. saw the case differently.
“It’s telling that in order to have a Black man eliminated, he turns to the Klan,” Watkins said in court. “I don’t think he’s such a low-functioning individual that he didn’t know if you want to terrorize a Black person, you go to those with sheets and robes.”
Watkins praised the judge for giving the maximum prison time available. He also said cases like these continue to stun him and he hopes he does not have to prosecute any comparable cases for the rest of his career.
“I was frankly shocked when I listened to the first recordings that someone would contemplate acts like these in 2018,” he told the Index-Journal. “This case is an exception, and I do not expect to be prosecuting another such case in my career.”