Three white men who threatened a black man who was trying to use the restroom at a rural store in South Carolina's Pee Dee will land in federal prison.
One of the men used a chain saw to threaten Dahndra Moore, who stopped at the convenience store and bar in Marlboro County on Dec. 6, 2007.
Thomas Blue Sr., 49, Thomas Blue Jr., 28, and Judson Talbert, 35, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday in Florence to civil rights and carjacking charges, U.S. Department of Justice officials said. The Blues operated the store, officials said, and Talbert was a regular customer.
The pleas before U.S. Judge Bryan Harwell came on the eve of what the government expected to be "a rather lengthy trial," said Kevin McDonald, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina.
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The three pleaded guilty in return for the government's recommendation of specific sentences for each, McDonald said.
Harwell, who is not bound by the agreements, will hand down sentences at a later hearing, McDonald said.
The elder Blue agreed to 13 years; his son, to three years; and Talbert, to nine.
The three didn't like the fact that a black man entered the Salem Road business, which has a dart board, a video game and pool tables, and tried to use its restroom, according to an indictment in the case.
The indictment and a Justice Department news release describe events of that night after Moore entered the store:
First, Thomas Blue Sr. placed his arm around Moore and escorted him out of the Stop and Shop.
Then Thomas Blue Sr. threw Moore to the ground. Meanwhile, Thomas Blue Jr. got a chain saw, revved it up, and threatened Moore.
As this was going on, Talbert - a friend of the Blues and a regular customer - got into Moore's Ford Crown Victoria and drove it away.
Moore escaped, and the Blues chased him down Salem Road. Moore escaped into a local home.
Talbert burned the car but left his fingerprints on it, authorities said. The elder Blue helped burn it, they said.
Thomas Blue Sr. also pistol-whipped and threatened two white Stop and Shop patrons he thought might be sympathetic to Moore.
In the ensuing months, the Blues and Talbert covered up their actions by lying to a federal grand jury, according to an indictment.
Last April, the Blues and Talbert were indicted.
Their guilty pleas Monday include their admission that they acted because Moore was black and because he was trying to use the services of the Stop and Shop.
"Our nation has come a long way in our battle against bigotry, but this case is a reminder that there are still those individuals who wish to divide our communities by hate," Thomas Perez, assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., said in announcing the plea deals.
Walt Wilkins, U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, said "the barbaric conduct of these three defendants against a man solely because of his skin color is shocking."