Second Man Pleads Guilty to Tying Rope Around Neck of James Meredith Statue on Ole Miss Campus
WASHINGTON – A second man pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights crime for tying a rope and Confederate flag around the neck of the James Meredith Statue at the University of Mississippi. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams of the Northern District of Mississippi and Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Division made the announcement.
Austin Reed Edenfield, of Kennesaw, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees because of their race or color. Edenfield was charged by information shortly before the plea. His sentencing date has not yet been set.
A second defendant, Graeme Phillip Harris, of Alpharetta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to the same charge in June 2015 and was sentenced to six months in prison.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that our universities and our workplaces are free from threats of racial violence,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “We will hold accountable those who attempt to turn places of learning into places of intimidation and fear.”
Edenfield and Harris acknowledged that they used the cover of darkness to tie the rope and an outdated version of the Georgia state flag – which prominently depicts the Confederate battle flag – around the neck of the statue in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, 2014. The statue honors Meredith’s role as the University of Mississippi’s first African-American student after its contentious 1962 integration. At the time of the incident, both men were students at the University of Mississippi.
Edenfield admitted as part of his plea that he knew the appearance of the rope and flag would be threatening and intimidating to African-American students.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Jackson Division’s Oxford Resident Agency 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.