A South Carolina man and woman pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina, to a federal hate crime, conspiracy and other charges.
According to court documents, beginning in January 2021 and continuing through February 2021, Gabriel Brunson, 20, and Sierra Fletcher, 33, both of Columbia, conspired to target people the defendants identified as Mexican or Hispanic at places of public accommodation, including gas stations and grocery stores. After identifying these targets, the defendants would rob their victims at gunpoint. The defendants targeted their victims because of their victims’ race and national origin.
Both defendants admitted their involvement in a Jan. 22, 2021, armed robbery in which the defendants followed their victims from a grocery store and restaurant to their home, and then robbed the victims at gunpoint, stealing cash and a cellphone. Fletcher admitted to being involved in several other robberies on Jan. 30, 2021, including a carjacking and a home invasion robbery of other Hispanic victims. The defendants admitted to using guns during their crimes.
The information to which Brunson and Fletcher pleaded guilty charges each of them with one hate crime for the Jan. 22, 2021, robbery of Hispanic victims. The information further charges Brunson and Fletcher with conspiracy, Hobbs Act robbery and carrying firearms in connection with those crimes.
“These defendants targeted Hispanic victims for violent acts of armed robbery because of their race, national origin and perceived vulnerability,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No person should have to fear for their lives or property because of their race or national origin. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit bias-motivated crimes.”
“Prosecuting civil rights crimes is a priority for our office,” said U.S. Attorney Adair Boroughs for the District of South Carolina. “Federal law recognizes that crimes targeting people of a particular race or national origin is particularly egregious, and we stand ready to enforce the national hate crimes law here in South Carolina.”
“These were not crimes of opportunity. The defendants systematically robbed at gunpoint people whom they identified as Mexican or Hispanic,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Hate motived violence has no place in our country. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate these crimes and promote a culture of safety and inclusivity in all the communities we serve.”
The plea agreements require both defendants to pay restitution to all victims. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Columbia Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the Richland County and Lexington County Sherriff’s Departments.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ben Garner and Brook Andrews for the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorney Andrew Manns of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.