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Sunday, February 10, 2008

West Virginia bias crime: Woman pleads guilty

While America's attention was fixed on the Jena 6 case last fall, a horrific crime against a person of color went almost without national attention.

Megan Williams, an 18-year-old African American woman was kidnapped, raped and tortured by a group of six whites, three men and three women, in Logan County, West Virginia, in August of 2007. She was eventually found and freed after an anonymous tip.

Now word comes -- if you look hard enough for it -- that the grand jury finally added 'hate crime' as one of the charges in the indictments it returned and that one of the women involved has pleaded guilty. The five remaining defendants have yet to be tried.

There is widespread sentiment that the news reportage of the case reflects a racial bias on the part of the media, partly because the victim was African American and partly because she had pressed domestic battery charges against one of the accused, Bobby Ray Brewster, with whom she had a prior relationship.

In protest against the lack of mainstream media coverage, an NYU student, Crystal Boyd, set up a Facebook page "Students Against the Rape of Megan Williams and the Media that Ignores Her" which quickly had 250,000 members (see more here).

While appearing on the Montel Williams show this week, Megan Williams learned she is the recipient of a $40,000 scholarship to a technical institute, a new computer and tutoring to help her earn her GED.

Sentencing in this first trial is set for March 3.

-- Dan Damon

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