Man Pleads Guilty to Racial Assaults
A Lancaster man pleaded guilty Monday to federal hate crime charges stemming from 1996 assaults on two black men. Prosecutors said Danny Edward Williams, 24, helped carry out the attacks to “rid the streets of Lancaster of African Americans,” in the words of the plea bargain agreement.
Williams, identified as a member of a gang called the Nazi Low Riders, will be sentenced Jan. 5. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison for violating the two men’s civil rights, but attorneys for both sides predict he will receive between five and seven years.
U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr., who heard the plea, will sentence Williams in his Los Angeles court. The assault victims are expected to deliver statements during the sentencing hearing.
According to a signed plea agreement:
* In April 1996, Williams shouted racial slurs at Eric Miller of Los Angeles, now 24, as Miller left a Blockbuster Video store on West Avenue L in Lancaster. Williams swung a baseball bat at Miller and missed, but a juvenile accomplice then repeatedly beat Miller with his fists. The pair then “drove away armed with the bat in search of other African Americans on the streets of Lancaster to assault or intimidate,” court documents said.
* In July 1996, Williams and two juveniles drove up behind Marcus Cotton and Angela McKinzie, both Lancaster residents who are now 17, as they walked down the street. Williams yelled, “White power!” and joined in the beating of Cotton, who also was stabbed in the back four times and left bleeding on the sidewalk.
* The skinhead group Nazi Low Riders organized the attacks as part of its advocacy of racial separation.
The plea capped a series of hate crime investigations in the Antelope Valley that involved a rare collaboration between federal and county prosecutors, in addition to FBI investigators. The crimes began with a 1993 cross burning in Palmdale.
Several juvenile cases are pending, including those against the youths accused of accompanying Williams.
“It closes a chapter in a long series of incidents, and these were some of the most violent,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Gennaco, chief civil rights prosecutor in the Los Angeles U.S. attorney’s office.
Federal authorities said the widely publicized Williams case shows the importance of civil rights laws.
“The statutes have been around since the late 1960s,” Gennaco said. “They aren’t used that often, but they are being used more and more, especially in this part of the country.”
Williams, who has a swastika tattooed on his left hand and a Ku Klux Klan figure on his left shoulder, was initially arrested in the attacks in September 1996. Four months later, he escaped from a minimum-security drug treatment facility in Pasadena, but authorities caught him within weeks.
In exchange for Williams’ plea, escape charges were not filed, Gennaco said, and conspiracy charges were dropped.
Pasadena attorney Michael Mayock, who represented Williams, said his client decided on his own to plead guilty.