SuperTalk Mississippi

UPDATE: Man sentenced for hate crime murder of transgender woman

Prison cell

Joshua Vallum appeared before a federal judge at 1:30 p.m. on Monday in Gulfport  for hate crime charges. 

He was sentenced to 49 years for the crime.

Vallum has plead guilty to killing 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender woman. He made his plea in December to the 2015 crime.

This is the first time in U.S. history that someone has been sentenced for hate crime charges for killing a transgender person.

“Today’s sentencing reflects the importance of holding individuals accountable when they commit violent acts against transgender individuals,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “The Justice Department will continue its efforts to vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes.”

“Crimes motivated by hate have devastating effects on the victims, their families and community, but also leave a blemish on our society as a whole,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze.  “The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States, and we will continue to pursue that mission in Mississippi. The outcome of this case would not have been possible without the partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement.”

Vallum was believed to be having sex with Williamson and was afraid members of his gang, the Latin Kings, would find out an punish him. Homosexuality is banned in the gang and punishable by death.

Prosecutors say Vallum lured Williamson into a car in Alabama and took him to his family home in Lucedale, Mississippi. That is where they believe the attack happened.

Vallum could face life in prison without parole.

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