GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department, under his leadership, will continue efforts to “vindicate the rights of those individuals who are affected by bias motivated crimes.”
Sessions issued the statement Monday in connection with the sentencing of a Mississippi man following the first-ever conviction on federal hate crimes charges arising from the killing of a transgender person.
A federal judge sentenced 29-year-old Joshua Vallum to 49 years in federal prison, in addition to his life without parole sentence following conviction on state murder charges. Vallum acknowledged killing a transgender woman, 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, in 2015.
The case has been closely watched by LGBT advocates nationwide.
Demoya Gordon, attorney for the Transgender Rights Project of Lambda Legal, says she welcomes Vallum’s conviction, but says she discounts Sessions’ statement. She cites, among other actions, the Trump administration’s reversal of guidelines that transgender students nationwide should be able to use school bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.