A South Carolina man is facing 10 years in federal prison in what the judge deemed a hate crime for trying to call a Ku Klux Klan hitman to kill his Black neighbor.
Brandon Lecroy, 26, was handed down the sentence by federal Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks on Thursday, April 11, according to The State. It follows Lecroy’s October 2018 guilty plea in the federal plot. He’s since been awaiting sentencing in the Spartanburg County Detention Center.
The judge’s decision comes after Lecroy was caught by an undercover FBI agent in May 2018 who posed as a KKK hit man named “Mark.”
“It’s one thing to think these thoughts, but it’s a crime to undertake to do harm to another,” Hendricks said. She also noted that the offense qualifies as a federal hate crime but due to the nature of the act, she’d have sentenced him to the maximum of 10 years in prison regardless of race playing into the offense.
Still, ahead of Hendrick’s ruling, Lecroy’s attorney, federal public defender Erica Soderdahl, argued that race had nothing to do with her client’s actions. Instead, he was simply fed up by a neighbor who continued to be difficult — and he just so happened to be Black.
Soderdahl explained the neighbor, who was only referred to as FJ, continued to come onto Lecroy’s property trying to pick a fight, ask for food and use the phone. The attorney said her client tried to get local law enforcement involved.
“But FJ kept coming back,” Soderdahl, said. “It’s not about an overriding feeling toward a race — it’s about one individual.”
She argued that Lecroy, who she pointed out suffered from abuse from his dad from ages 6 to 20, sought a hit man online in an act of desperation
and found what he thought was one from the local KKK chapter.
“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.”
Federal prosecutor William Watkins begged to differ.
“Your honor, the fact that he reached out to the KKK — this is not a low-functioning individual,” said the assistant U.S. Attorney told Hendricks. “It’s telling that to get a black person eliminated, he turned to the KKK.”
Watkins said that secretly-recorded tapes from law enforcement reveal racist language Lecroy used including offering that the hitman use a burning cross. The defendant also referred to FJ as “vermin that you are exterminating.”
“He doesn’t call a biker gang,” Watkins told the judge. “It all boils down to this: he sought to eliminate his neighbor based on his race.”