GULFPORT, Miss. (WJTV) – A Gulfport man pled guilty in federal court to a hate crime for burning a cross in his front yard to intimidate a Black family.

Axel C. Cox, 24, pled guilty to violating the Fair Housing Act when he used threatening and racially derogatory remarks toward his Black neighbors and burned a cross to intimidate them.

Officials with the United States Department of Justice said Cox admitted to gathering supplies from his home, putting together a wooden cross in his front yard and propping it up for his Black neighbors to see. He stated that he doused the cross with motor oil and lit it on fire. He also stated that he burned the cross because of the victims’ race and because they lived in the home next to his.

“Burning a cross invokes the long and painful history, particularly in Mississippi, of intimidation and impending physical violence against Black people,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

Cox is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2023. He faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 or both.