Three white men have been charged with federal hate crimes after admitting to beating and running over black auto worker James Craig Anderson in Mississippi.
Dylan Butler, 20, Deryl Dedmon, 19, and John Aaron Rice, 19, entered guilty pleas in federal court to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and to committing a hate crime, the Associated Press reported.
Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez said the three made "a sport of attacking African Americans" in the Jackson, Mississippi area, according to USA Today.
Prosecutors as saying that on numerous occasions one or all three harassed or assaulted black people who they thought were homeless or intoxicated, victims chosen because they thought they would not tell police.
According to CBS News, on the night of the fatal assault on Anderson, 47, Dedmon admitted he and a group of white teens were partying in Puckett, a small town outside Jackson.
The group went to Jackson to find a black man to harass because of its majority-black population. They found Anderson before dawn outside a hotel. He was beaten before Dedmon ran over him.
Dedmon pleaded guilty in state court Wednesday in connection with the murder and received two life sentences on those charges, USA Today reported, adding that Rice has been charged by state authorities with assault, while Butler had not been charged in state court.
The federal hate crimes charges, which carry a maximum life sentence, mark the first time authorities have invoked the statute known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a case resulting in a victim's death, according to the AP.
A video of Anderson's death was broadcast by news organizations.
The authorities have said there could be more arrests.