Brandon Lecroy, 26, from Greenwood County, North Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday
Brandon Lecroy, 26, of Greenwood County, North Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to hiring a Ku Klux Klan killer to lynch his black neighbor from a tree.
Lecroy pleaded guilty to the racist attempt to murder back in October.
District judge Bruce Howe Hendricks noted that Lecroy's actions were technically classified as hate crimes, but stressed that planning to have someone killed was such a serious crime that it would have sentenced him to the maximum legal penalty, even if it were the breed would not have been a factor.
"It's one thing to think these thoughts, but it's a crime to harm someone else," Hendricks said Thursday.
Federal agents began investigating Lecroy over a year ago after receiving a notice from a local law enforcement officer who works with the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Department.
The nameless officer alerted the FBI that Lecroy had contacted a local KKK chapter and said he wanted to pay someone connected to the group to kill his African-American neighbor, who was only called "F.J." in court documents.
Lecroys federal defense lawyer Erica Soderdahl said F.J. came to her client's property all the time to start fights, ask for food, and use Lecoy's phone.
She said her client had tried several times to get the local police to stop the neighbor from entering.
"But F.J. kept coming back," Soderdahl told the judge, according to the Associated Press. "It's not about an overall feeling about a race – it's about a person."
A covert FBI agent pretending to be a white Supremacist killer replied to Lecroy's message. During a phone call on March 20, 2018, Lecroy said the agent "$ 500 and he's a ghost," referring to his neighbor.
The state reported that Lecroy had also told the "killer" that he wanted his neighbor to be hung from a tree and that he had "plans to take ownership of the victim's property," an affidavit said.
The prosecutor played audio recordings of Lecroy's phone calls with the undercover agent, the AP reported. Lecroy was heard in racist language while suspecting that the alleged killer could use a blazing cross during the murder.
Finally, the FBI agent had a face-to-face meeting with Lecroy, who gave him a $ 100 deposit for the hit.
Lecroy's lawyer argued that going online and looking up the local clan chapter was the last act of her client's despair in dealing with his disturbing neighbor.
"Brandon called the KKK, because who else was he supposed to call?" Soderdahl argued. "It had nothing to do with the color of his skin."
But Attorney General William Watkins told the judge that Lecroy's attempted hit was clearly racially motivated.
"The fact that he contacted the KKK – this is not a malfunctioning person," said Watkins, according to the AP. "It is significant that he turned to the KKK to eliminate a black person … 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. & # 39;