A gang member is due in court on Monday to be sentenced under hate crime charges for the murder of a transgender teen, in the first ever transgender hate crime prosecution in the United States. Joshua Vallum, 29, pleaded guilty in a Mississippi federal court to the 2015 murder of his former romantic partner, 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, because she was transgender. Vallum could be sentenced for life without parole when he appears on Monday afternoon before a

federal judge in a Gulfport, Mississippi, courthouse. Harper Jean Tobin, spokeswoman for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), a Washington D.C. advocacy group, said the murder was part of an “epidemic of violence against transgender people” in the United States. “It’s essential that biased crime against trans people be recognized as a serious national problem,” she said in a phone interview. READ MORE