Edenfield pleads guilty
Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 25, 2016
The second former University of Mississippi student pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in tying a rope and Confederate flag around the James Meredith statue on Ole Miss’s campus in 2014.
Austin Edenfield, 21, of Kennesaw, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills to one count of aiding and abetting another person using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees because of their race or color.
The maximum sentence is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The government is asking for leniency due to Edenfield’s cooperation during the investigation.
Edenfield agreed to waive a formal indictment by a grand jury and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge. Mills set his sentencing for July 21, after he has time to review the pre-sentencing report.
The government and Edenfield’s attorneys, T.R. Trout and Clark Trout, are asking the court to consider sentencing Edenfield to one year of probation.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty of the charge against you?” Mills asked Edenfield, who replied with a simple, “Yes.”
According to court documents, on Feb. 15, 2014, Edenfield was invited by Graeme Phillip Harris to come out and drink with him and fellow student, Arthur McCarty. The three were members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The three were at the fraternity house and reportedly under the influence of alcohol when Harris decided “he wanted to create a sensation on campus using a Confederate flag.” Edenfield told investigators that Harris frequently used racist language and that Harris believed black people are inferior to white people.
Harris, Edenfield and McCarty decided they would place an outdated Georgia state flag containing the Confederate battle flag and rope on the Meredith statue. Knowing that James Meredith was the first black student enrolled at Ole Miss in 1962, Edenfield agreed to help Harris place the flag and rope on the statue and admitted to tying the rope around the neck of the statue when Harris was unable to get it tied.
The three left the area and Harris and Edenfield returned at sunrise on Feb. 16 to “see what it looked like in the daylight.” On the way there, Edenfield and Harris passed a university maintenance worker and Harris yelled out “white power,” according to the factual basis report submitted by the government.
All three students withdrew from the university and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity closed its chapter on the Ole Miss campus.
Mills allowed Edenfield to remain released on bond until his sentencing.