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Killer Gets 49 Years in First Federal Hate Crime Involving a Transgender Victim

FILE - A gay activist stands behind a rainbow flag, Oct. 22, 2015.

A U.S. judge sentenced a Mississippi street gang member to 49 years in prison in the first federal hate crime trial involving a transgender victim.

Josh Vallum is already serving life in prison on state murder charges for killing Mercedes Williamson.

Vallum apologized for killing her, saying there is no excuse for what he did.

But federal judge Louis Guirola said killing someone because of sexual orientation "is particularly heinous and can't be tolerated by an enlightened society."

The 29-year-old Vallum pleaded guilty to the murder in December, saying he was afraid his fellow gang members would kill him if they found out he was dating a woman who was born a male.

Vallum apparently did not know the 17-year-old Williamson had male genitalia until the two started dating.