WASHINGTON – U.S. District Court Judge R. Bryan Harwell has sentenced three men in Florence, S.C., for their role in terrorizing an African-American man and two Caucasian men and for carjacking, the Justice Department announced today. Judge Harwell sentenced Thomas Howard Blue Sr., 49, to 156 months in prison, while Thomas Howard Blue Jr., 29, received 36 months in prison. A third co-conspirator, Judson Hartley Talbert was sentenced to 108 months in prison.
In December 2009, the three defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive, and actually depriving the African-American victim of his right to engage in a federally-protected activity, and conspiring to carjack and actually carjacking the victim’s car. Thomas Howard Blue Sr. also pleaded guilty to depriving two other victims of their right to engage in federally-protected activity and using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence against those victims.
The defendants admitted that the elder Blue forcibly escorted the victim, an African-American man, out of an establishment known as the "Stop and Shop" after the victim had entered the store to use the restroom. Once outside, the elder Blue forced the victim to the ground and Blue Jr., threatened the victim with a chainsaw, while a small crowd watched. As the victim was being attacked, Talbert stole his car and drove it to a site along South Carolina’s Great Pee Dee River known as "Blue’s Landing." After realizing that the victim was attempting to call the police, Blue pursued the victim out of the Stop and Shop parking lot to a nearby road, where the victim escaped by seeking refuge in the home of a local family.
The elder Blue then retrieved a pistol and attacked a Caucasian man, whom he believed to be aiding the African-American victim. The elder Blue stuck the pistol against the second victim’s face and threatened to kill him when he denied knowing anything about the African-American victim. When the third victim, a Caucasian man, arrived at the Stop and Shop to retrieve the African-American victim’s car, the elder Blue pointed his pistol at the third victim and threatened to kill him.
"This case is a reminder that violent acts fueled by bigotry and hate continue to happen all too frequently in our nation, even in 2010. All Americans, regardless of their color or race, should feel free to use public facilities without fear of intimidation or violence," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The prosecution of this case should send a message to those who engage in such hate-fueled assaults that they will be brought to justice."
"This senseless, terrifying assault was quite simply the product of hate, and I expect others tempted to act out in violent racism to take note of this prosecution and the sentences imposed," said Kevin McDonald, Acting United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina. "This office, along with our partners at the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, stand ready to protect all South Carolinians by prosecuting those whose crimes are fueled by hatred."
The case was investigated by FBI Special Agent Steven Stokes with assistance of Special Agent Jeffrey L. Key of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Investigator Shawn Feldner of the Marlboro County, S.C., Sheriff’s Department. The case was prosecuted by Michael J. Frank of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Bradley Parham of the District of South Carolina.