TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - US Rep. Louie Gohmert was one of four US representatives to vote against legislation designating lynching as a hate crime under federal law, stating the maximum sentence is not harsh enough.
Gohmert issued the following statement Wednesday:
"Lynching is one of the most heinous forms of murder. It absolutely deserves to be treated as a capital crime, and those who directly participate in lynching should rightly be subjected to a harsh penalty. However, H.R. 35 makes conspiring to commit civil rights violations a federal crime without a proper nexus. Moreover, the maximum prison sentence allotted in the bill is 10 years. This is an outrageously low maximum sentence for such an odious crime. It almost trivializes such a heinous offense.
Previous versions of H.R. 35 contained much stronger language than that of the bill we voted on today. A version of the bill released on January 3 of this year stated that anyone who assembles with the intention of lynching or who causes death by lynching 'shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.' The bill we voted on today does not include this clause. Instead, the language of H.R. 35 that was brought to the House Floor for a vote contains diluted language that does not provide a proper avenue for punishment. Under Texas law, such an offense can and does merit capital punishment as the two most culpable killers of James Byrd received.
Such a hateful crime deserves a severe sentence, and I could not in good conscience vote on a bill that addresses lynching on such a low level. I commend Congressman Bobby Rush for the work he has done and the injustices he continues to fight, which I personally conveyed to him on the House floor. My personal statement publicly on the House floor can also be viewed giving more detail."
The bill was introduced by Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush and named after Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi 65 years ago.
The House approved the measure, 410-4, on Wednesday. The Senate unanimously passed virtually identical legislation last year.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk.
Rush, whose Chicago district includes Till’s former home, said the bill belatedly achieves justice for Till and 4,000 other lynching victims, most African Americans.