JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – For the first time in the U.S., a person will be sentenced on federal hate crimes charges for killing a transgender person.
Joshua Vallum is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Monday in Gulfport, Mississippi, after pleading guilty in December to hate crimes charges in the 2015 death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson.
His sentence could be as long as life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors say Vallum lured Williamson into a car in Alabama, and drove her to his family’s home near Lucedale, Mississippi. There, they say, Vallum attacked Williamson. Prosecutors say Vallum killed Williamson to keep fellow gang members from discovering they’d been having sex. Latin Kings rules ban homosexual activity and declare a punishment of death.
Vallum pleaded guilty earlier to murder charges in state court.