HODGES, S.C. - A South Carolina man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to hire a Ku Klux Klan member to kill his black neighbor.
Brandon Cory Lecroy, 26, of Hodges, was sentenced Thursday in federal court for the attempt to have the man, identified in court records by his initials, “FJ,” killed. The State in Columbia reported that 10 years was the maximum sentence for the offense, which U.S. Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks ruled qualified as a federal hate crime.
“It’s one thing to think these thoughts, but it’s a crime to undertake to do harm to another,” Hendricks said, according to the newspaper.
Lecroy pleaded guilty last fall to the murder-for-hire scheme. According to a federal criminal complaint, a confidential informant for the FBI reported on March 19, 2018, that Lecroy had contacted the KKK seeking someone to kill his black neighbor.
The following day, Lecroy was recorded talking to an undercover FBI agent in Virginia who was posing as the potential hitman.
“Five hundred dollars and he’s a ghost,” Lecroy told the man, according to the complaint.
Lecroy requested that FJ be hanged from a tree and a “flaming cross” burned on the man’s front lawn. He texted the undercover agent photos and names of two intended targets, one of which was his neighbor.
On March 22, 2018, Lecroy reaffirmed his agreement with the hitman.
“Lecroy also provides (the agent) with further intelligence on when to best commit the murder, as well as plans to take over the victim’s property,” the criminal complaint reads. “Lecroy also expresses to (the agent) that he wishes to obtain a 9mm handgun with two ‘clips.’ Lecroy stated that he wants a ‘ghost gun’ that is untraceable and not stolen.
“Lecroy also advised (the agent) that he has more jobs for him in the future.”
Lecroy met with the undercover FBI agent April 9, 2018, in Greenwood, South Carolina, the complaint states. He gave the man a $100 down payment on the killing, pointed out FJ’s home in nearby Hodges and discussed future targets.
None of the identities of Lecroy’s other potential targets have been made public.
Some documents in the case were sealed after Assistant U.S. Attorney William Watkins requested they be kept private, The State reported.
Watkins told the newspaper the documents quoted from the secretly-recorded conversations Lecroy had with the undercover FBI agent. The language used is so “racially explosive,” the documents should remain sealed, the prosecutor said.
Part of the reasoning was for Lecroy’s own safety in prison, Watkins said.
“He would be a marked man,” the prosecutor told the newspaper.
Read the criminal complaint in the case against Brandon Lecroy below.
The State reported that Lecroy’s attorney, Erica Soderdahl, argued that race was not a factor in Lecroy’s actions and he was trying to eliminate an annoying neighbor who happened to be black.
Soderdahl alleged that FJ repeatedly went onto Lecroy’s property, asking for food or to use Lecroy’s phone and trying to pick fights. Lecroy tried to get police officers to keep the man away, she said.
“But FJ kept coming back,” Soderdahl argued, according to The State. “It’s not about an overriding feeling toward a race. It’s about one individual.”
A frustrated Lecroy went online and found a KKK chapter with a local area code and reached out to its members, the defense attorney admitted.
“Brandon called the KKK because who else was he going to call?” she said, reiterating that FJ’s skin color had nothing to do with her client’s actions.
Watkins disagreed, pointing out that recordings of Lecroy talking with the supposed hit man included racist language by Lecroy, along with violent KKK symbols, including a burning cross.
“He doesn’t call a biker gang (for help),” Watkins argued, according to the newspaper. “It all boils down to this: He sought to eliminate his neighbor based on his race.”
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