A white South Carolina man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Thursday for attempting to hire the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to kill his black neighbor.
Brandon Lecroy, 26, pleaded guilty last year to the murder-for-hire plot after an undercover FBI agent posing as a KKK member arrested him, The Charlotte Observer reported.
The neighbor, identified by the initial “FJ,” would allegedly come onto Lecroy’s property in Greenwood County, according to his attorney, Erica Soderdahl.
Lecroy claims that the neighbor would pick fights and ask for food or to use the phone. Attempts to call the police on his neighbor were unsuccessful, Soderdahl said.
“But FJ kept coming back,” Soderdahl said. “It’s not about an overriding feeling toward a race – it’s about one individual.”
Lecroy’s defense attorney claimed that he researched out to a local KKK chapter to help when police did not intervene.
“Brandon called the KKK because who else was he going to call?” Soderdahl said. “It had nothing to do with the color of his skin.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Watkins, however, argued in court the neighbor was specifically targeted because of his race, The Charlotte Observer reported.
“Your honor, the fact that he reached out to the KKK – this is not a low-functioning individual,” Watkins said. “It’s telling that to get a black person eliminated, he turned to the KKK.”
Lecroy used racist language and referred to violent KKK symbols in secretly-recorded tapes with law enforcement, Watkins said. Lecroy even suggested that the undercover agent he was speaking with use a flaming cross, the prosecutor added.
“He doesn’t call a biker gang,” Watkins told the judge. “What he had in mind for his neighbor was very race-specific. … He targeted him [FJ] because of his race.”
The plot was discovered when Lecroy went online and found a phone number for the local KKK chapter, the newspaper reported.
The FBI agent was working with the federal domestic terrorism task force and was undercover posing as a KKK hit man “Mark.”
Lecroy was sentenced in a federal court, partially because he used a cellphone – which is used in interstate commerce – to try and arrange the hit.
U.S. Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks found that the offense qualified as a federal hate crime, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. She would have given Lecroy the same prison sentence because of the seriousness of the crime.
“It’s one thing to think these thoughts, but it’s a crime to undertake to do harm to another,” Hendricks said, according to the newspaper.