The U.S. Attorney’s office successfully prosecuted a Houston case in its first test in Texas under a relatively new federal law. Yondell Johnson was waiting for a bus in downtown Houston last August. Four men surrounded him and started beating him. Johnson was able to survive until police arrived. The U.S. Attorney’s office stepped in to charge the four with a hate crime.
Three men were convicted in April. A fourth was given immunity in exchange for his testimony. Monday, the men learned how much time they would spend behind bars. Thirty-two-year old Brian Kerstetter received six and a half years. Twenty-six-year old Charles Cannon will spend three years in federal prison and 40-year-old Michael McLaughlin got two and a half years.
Outside of the federal courtroom, Robert Mosey with the Department of Justice addressed the signifigance of the case: “That law is named after a man, James Byrd, Jr. who was murdered not far from here a number of years ago. So, it is fitting that we’re here today in one of the first applications of that law in the country and the first application of that law in Texas.”
Because the federal law carries the option of longer sentences, local prosecutors turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney’s office.