WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced that Paul Schlesselman was sentenced today on federal charges for conspiring to murder dozens of African-Americans, including then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama, because of their race.
On Jan. 14, 2010, Schlesselman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a presidential candidate, and one count of possessing a firearm. Today, U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen sentenced Schlesselman to 10 years in prison and three years supervised release.
Schlesselman of West Helena, Ark., admitted that he conspired to murder several people, with a focus on targeting African-Americans. He stated that beginning on or about Sept. 1, 2008, and continuing until Oct. 22, 2008, he conspired to transport firearms and ammunition in interstate commerce, steal firearms from a licensed firearm dealer and transport in interstate commerce a short-barreled shotgun, all for the purpose of committing murders, robberies and burglaries. Schlesselman acknowledged that he intended to culminate his racially-targeted killing spree by assassinating then-Senator Obama.
"Our nation has made great progress in advancing civil rights, but this unthinkable conspiracy is a reminder that hate-fueled violence continues to be a very real problem in so many communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Tragedy was averted thanks to the capable work of the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department and their willingness to work with the ATF, the Secret Service and the FBI."
"Crimes committed against individuals because of their race will not be tolerated," said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. "I commend the work of the investigative agencies in thwarting what could have been a series of tragic events."
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Powell, and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti.