Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Man Sentenced in Connection with Rope Tied Around Neck of James Meredith Statue on Ole Miss Campus

U.S. District Court Judge Michael P. Mills of the Northern District of Mississippi today sentenced Graeme Phillip Harris to six months in prison and one year supervised release for helping place a rope around the neck of the James Meredith statue on the University of Mississippi campus.

The incident occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, 2014.  Court documents show that Harris and others hung a rope and an outdated version of the Georgia state flag—which prominently depicts the Confederate battle flag—around the neck of the Meredith statue, with the intent to threaten and intimidate African-American students and employees at the university.  The iconic statue honors Meredith’s role as the university’s first African-American student. 

Harris was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 27 on one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students because of their race or color.  On June 18, he pleaded guilty to the threats charge, pursuant to a plea agreement.

“Those who would use threats and intimidation to spread fear and hatred through our schools and workplaces should know that the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute these cases,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “No one should have to endure threats or intimidation because of their race or the color of their skin.”

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi greatly appreciates the assistance of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the University of Mississippi in the investigation and prosecution of this case,” said U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams of the Northern District of Mississippi.

“The FBI is committed to the protection of the civil rights of all citizens and will continue to investigate allegations of crime motivated by hate,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI’s Jackson Division.  “I’m hopeful that this sentencing will clarify the consequences for anyone contemplating senseless, hurtful actions such as this.”

The investigation is ongoing.

This case is being investigated by the Oxford Resident Agency of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Division’s and the University of Mississippi Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Mississippi.

Hate Crimes
Press Release Number: 
Updated May 17, 2016