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4 Houston men charged with hate crime

HOUSTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury in Houston indicted four men on hate crime charges for an allegedly racially motivated attack of a black man, officials said Thursday.

Charles Cannon, 26, Michael McLaughlin, 40, Brian Kerstetter, 32, and Joseph Staggs, 49, were charged with misdemeanor assault in the beating, which took place Aug. 13, the Houston Chronicle reported. Federal prosecutors also charged the men with one count each of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in October 2009.

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This is the third time prosecutors have brought charges under the act nationally, the Chronicle said.

The indictment says the four men attacked Yondell Johnson, 29, while he was standing at a bus stop in Houston. At least one of the men allegedly used racial slurs as all four punched and kicked the victim in the face, head and body.

Federal officials said three of the defendants had tattoos showing affiliation with white supremacist gangs.

If convicted, the four could face 10 years in prison, a release from the U.S. Justice Department said.

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