WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Columbia, South Carolina, returned an indictment yesterday charging two South Carolina men with hate crimes in connection with a string of bias-motivated armed robberies targeting Hispanic victims.
According to court documents, beginning in Jan. 2021 and continuing through Feb. 2021, Charles Antonio Clippard, 26, and Michael Joseph Knox, 28, 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 indictment alleges that the defendants committed three armed robberies as part of the conspiracy, including one carjacking, because of the victims’ race and national origin and because those individuals were using places of public accommodation.
Clippard and Knox are charged with three hate crime counts, one count of conspiracy, one count of carjacking and three firearms offenses. If convicted, each faces a minimum penalty of 21 years in prison for the firearms offenses, a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each hate crime count and a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on the carjacking count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs for the District of South Carolina and Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Jensen of the FBI Columbia Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI Columbia Field Office is investigating the case, with the cooperation of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Town of Lexington Police Department and Columbia Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Garner for the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorney Andrew Manns of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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