Man Pleads Guilty To First Federal Charge Of Hate Crime Against Transgender Person

Not every state has hate crime laws that are equal across the board.  Apparently South Carolina, Arkansas, Wyoming, Indiana and Georgia have been identified as five states out of 50 without hate crimes law. 

As we look at states and try to get them all up to speed, the federal government is actually taking steps to make sure hate crimes are tried to the fullest extent.  A first of its kind case is making news this week in regard to hate crimes.


A Latin Kings gang member pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the first federal hate crime charge filed against the murderer of a transgender person by the U.S. Justice Department in American history.

According to unsealed court documents, Josh Vallum, 29, "willfully caused bodily injury" to 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson by tasing her, stabbing her multiple times in the head and body and striking her with a hammer, because of Williamson's "actual and perceived gender identity."

Though he had previously denied it, Josh Vallum confessed that he murdered Williams because of her gender identity.

The Department of Justice utilized the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act — which passed in 2009 and expanded the 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes against those crimes motivated by a victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability — to file the hate crime charge.

This is the first prosecution for targeting a transgender victim in U.S. history under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Vallum had previously pleaded guilty to a Mississippi charge of murder by deliberate design, which earned him a life sentence with parole. He now faces an additional sentence of life without parole and up to $250,000 in fines when he attends his March 21 sentencing hearing. –


Will the fact that this murder is being tried on the federal level as well as the state level deter actions of individuals?  Will they think twice before committing a hate crime?  Killers will kill, haters will hate, but maybe this will be a case they will keep in their minds before causing harm to someone else.



The Latin Kings prohibit homosexuality, and prosecutors alleged that Vallum killed Williamson to hide the fact that he had maintained a sexual relationship with her.

For members of the transgender community, the specifics of this case are all too familiar.

"In a case like this one, it seems that sometimes people believe the stain of being associated with a transgender person is so intense that someone decides to kill them," Tobin said. "The stigma facing transgender people is literally deadly." –







What do you think?