‘Race was not a factor in Lecroy’s actions and he was trying to eliminate an annoying neighbor who happened to be black’, – Defense attorney, Erica Soderdahl
Brandon Lecroy of Greenwood County, South Carolina was sentenced to spend a decade in federal prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to a race-motivated murder-for-hire plot
Lecroy, 26, pled guilty to federal charges for paying $500 to a purported white supremacist hitman to kill his black neighbor, ‘F.J.’, in Oct
Lecroy claimed the target brought it on, constantly coming onto Lecroy’s property, trying to start fights, asking for food and to use the phone, his defense attorney said
Lecroy unknowingly hired an undercover FBI agent as the ‘hitman’, after a cop in South Carolina tipped off the feds about the defendant who had reached out to a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan about killing his neighbor
He was overheard telling the undercover agent over the phone that he wanted the purported hitman to ‘[lynch], hang his black neighbor from a tree’
Lecroy’s attorney told the judge her client wasn’t planning a racially-motivated crime, but simply trying to kill an extremely troublesome neighbor who also happened to be African American
She said target brought it on by constantly coming onto Lecroy’s property trying to start fights, asking for food and requesting to use the phone
Brandon Lecroy, 26, of Greenwood County, North Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to attempting to hire a hitman from the Ku Klux Klan to lynch his black neighbor from a tree.
Lecroy pled guilty to the racist murder-for-hire plot back in October.
US District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks determined that Lecroy’s actions technically qualified as a hate crime, but emphasized that planning to have someone else killed was such a serious offense that she would have sentenced him to the maximum penalty allowed by law even if race wasn’t a factor.
‘It’s one thing to think these thoughts, but it’s a crime to undertake to do harm to another,’ Hendricks said on Thursday.
Federal agents began investigating Lecroy more than a year ago after receiving a tip from a local law enforcement official who works with the FBI’s counter terrorism division.
The unnamed officer alerted the FBI that Lecroy had reached out to a local KKK chapter, saying he wanted to pay someone affiliated with the group to kill his African-American neighbor, identified only as ‘F.J.’ in court documents.
Lecroy’s federal public defender, Erica Soderdahl, said F.J. continually came onto her client’s property trying to start fights, asking for food and to use Lecoy’s phone.
She said her client had tried numerous times to get local police to stop the neighbor from trespassing.
‘But F.J. kept coming back,’ Soderdahl told the judge, according to the Associated Press. ‘It’s not about an overriding feeling toward a race – it’s about one individual.’
An undercover FBI agent pretending to be a white supremacist hitman responded to Lecroy’s communique. During a March 20, 2018, phone call, Lecroy told the agent ‘$500 and he’s a ghost’, referring to his neighbor.
The State reported Lecroy also told the ‘hitman’ he wanted him to hang his neighbor from a tree and that he had ‘plans to take over the victim’s property,’ according to an affidavit.
The prosecution played audio recordings of Lecroy’s phone calls with the undercover agent, the AP reported. Lecroy could be heard using racist language while suggesting the supposed hitman could use a flaming cross during tundercover then agent had a face-to-face meeting with Lecroy who gave him a $100 down payment for the hit.
Lecroy’s attorney argued that going online and looking up the local Klan chapter was her client’s final act of desperation in dealing with his troublesome neighbor.
‘Brandon called the KKK because who else was he going to call?’ Soderdahl argued. ‘It had nothing to do with the color of his skin.’
Federal prosecutor William Watkins in rebutal countered that Lecroy’s attempted hit was clearly racially motivated: “The fact that he reached out to the KKK – this is not a low-functioning individual,” Watkins said.
“It’s telling that to get a black person eliminated, he turned to the KKK… He doesn’t call a biker gang. What he had in mind for his neighbor was very race specific… He targeted him because of his race.”