Man pleads guilty to charge over noose on Ole Miss statue

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A federal prosecutor said in court Thursday that Graeme Phillip Harris hatched a plan, after a night of drinking at a University of Mississippi fraternity house, to hang a noose on a campus statue of James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss.

Harris, who is white, pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of threatening force to intimidate African-American students and employees at the university. Prosecutors agreed to drop a stiffer felony charge in exchange for the plea arising from the incident last year.

The 20-year-old Harris faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000. U.S. District Judge Michael Mills said sentencing will be within 60 to 90 days, and he allowed Harris to remain free on a $10,000 bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Norman told Mills that Harris, who had a history of using racist language and saying African Americans were inferior to whites, proposed the plan to two fellow freshmen while at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house on the night of Feb 15, 2014.

That led to the plan to hang the noose and a former Georgia state flag that features the Confederate battle flag on the statue of Meredith, in a jab at Ole Miss' thorny racial history.

When a federal court ordered the university to admit Meredith in 1962, the African-American student had to be escorted onto campus by armed federal agents. The agents were attacked during an all-night riot that claimed two lives and was ultimately quelled by federal troops.

After the noose and flag were placed on the statue, Norman said Harris and one of the other freshmen returned at sunrise on Feb. 16 to observe and were filmed by a video camera at the Ole Miss student union.

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