For the first time since its passage in 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been used to bring charges for targeting a victim because they were transgender.. This Act expanded existing federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. In the Mississippi case, federal prosecutors charged Joshua Vallum under the act for the brutal 2015 murder of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson.
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