Second man sentenced for tying rope on Meredith statue

Published 12:00 pm Friday, July 22, 2016

The second former University of Mississippi student was sentenced Thursday for his role in a prank that involved hanging a rope and Confederate flag around the James Meredith statue on the university’s campus more than two years ago.

Austin Reed Edenfield, of Kennesaw, Georgia, was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to complete 50 hours of uncompensated community service by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills in Oxford, who also ordered Edenfield to get substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Edenfield, 21, pleaded guilty in March to one count of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees by putting a noose on the James Meredith statue.

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Another former student, Graeme Phillip Harris, of Alpharetta, Georgia, pleaded guilty to the same charge in June 2015 and was sentenced to six months in prison.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, will aggressively prosecute hate crimes and other civil rights violations which occur in our district,” said U.S. Attorney Felicia Adams. “I seriously appreciate the assistance of the FBI and the University of Mississippi in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”

According to court documents, on Feb. 15, 2014, Edenfield was invited by 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.

Harris, Edenfield and McCarty decided they would place an outdated Georgia state flag containing the Confederate battle flag and rope on the Meredith statue.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.

All three students withdrew from the university and the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity closed its chapter on the Ole Miss campus.

McCarty has not been charged with any crime related to the incident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.