A Mississippi man has been sentenced to an additional 49 years in prison after being convicted of the first federal hate crime against a transgender victim.
Joshua Vallum, 29, had already been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to state charges in the murder of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson.
Vallum’s federal sentence is for violation of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This is the first time in US history that the act has been used to charge anyone for committing a crime against someone based on their gender identity.
The act was passed in 2009 and added crimes against a victim because of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability to the Federal Hate Crimes law.
In 2015 Vallum killed Williamson by shocking her with a stun gun, stabbing her, and beating her with a hammer before hiding her body in the woods near his house.
Vallum initially claimed to have killed Williamson in a panic after learning she was trans, but this was later proven to be false after finding out they were in a relationship for a few months in 2014.
He admitted that he would not have killed her if she was not trans.
Last July, Vallum pleaded guilty to murder charges in the state of Mississippi. Prosecutors believed he killed her in fear of his fellow Latin Kings gang members learning about their relationship.