BRANDON, Miss. (AP) - The case against a black ex-convict charged in the slaying of a white supremacist in Mississippi won't be prosecuted as a hate crime, the district attorney said Tuesday.
Mississippi enacted a law in 1994 to allow penalties to be doubled if a jury finds a crime was committed because of hatred of race, religion, national origin or gender. Sexual orientation was not included as a motive in the state law.
"I don't see this being a hate crime," District Attorney Michael Guest said Tuesday after the initial court appearance of 22-year-old Vincent McGee. McGee is charged with murder and arson in the death of lawyer Richard Barrett, 67, whose body was found last Thursday at his home outside the Jackson suburb of Pearl.
Authorities said Barrett had been stabbed, beaten and burned.
McGee, wearing a bulletproof vest and shackles, made no comment during his brief appearance Tuesday in Rankin County Court. Judge Kent McDaniel denied bond for McGee.
Public defender Mike Scott, who's representing McGee, said the case is "racially polarizing" because of who Barrett was and who McGee is.
"I don't think Vincent McGee had any hate in his heart when he was accused of doing this," Scott said outside court. "I don't think he had any hatred of Richard Barrett."
Guest said McGee has been cooperating with investigators.
McDaniel set arraignment on May 4 for McGee and others charged in the case, and each could enter a plea then.
Police have not said why they think Barrett was killed and have not released details about what they believe happened.
Barrett, a New York City native and Vietnam War veteran, moved to Mississippi in 1966, just before he founded a group called the Nationalist Movement. He ran the group from an office in the small rural town of Learned, about 20 miles southwest of Jackson. He also ran a school for skinheads.
Barrett was known for traveling the country promoting segregationist views.
Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said Barrett lived in a racially mixed neighborhood and was often gone for long periods.
"We never got any complaints like, 'We've got this old white supremacist living out here,"' Pennington said Tuesday.
McGee was arrested and charged with murder just hours after Barrett's body was found in the rural Monterey community near Pearl. Authorities said McGee lived near Barrett and had done yard work for him.
Vicky Dent and Michael Dent, a mother and son who lived nearby, also appeared in court Tuesday in the case. McDaniel set Vicky Dent's bond at $5,000. She is charged with accessory after the fact. No bond was set for Michael Dent, who is charged with accessory after the fact and arson.
District Attorney Michael Guest said Michael Dent was under court supervision when he was arrested. Guest did not immediately provide details of Dent's supervision.
Guest said Alfred Lewis, McGee's stepfather who is charged as accessory after the fact to murder, was earlier released on his own recognizance and did not appear in court Tuesday.
Guest said Lewis has health issues.
McGee was released from state prison in February after serving five years of a six-year sentence for simple assault on a police officer and grand larceny.
Deputies took McGee back to Barrett's neighborhood Monday to search the area. McGee told an Associated Press reporter at the scene that he didn't learn until after Barrett had been killed that he was a racist leader.
McGee blurted out comments even though deputies told him he was not allowed to do interviews.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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