The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
The leader of an Amish splinter sect in Ohio had his prison sentence reduced by one-third Monday after a federal appeals court ruled a jury was given improper instructions before deciding it was a hate crime to forcibly shave the beards and hair of members who tried to leave.
Samuel Mullet, 69, was given a modified sentence of 10 years and nine-months by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who in February 2013 had originally sentenced Mullet to 15 years. The case was the first in Ohio under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act enacted in 2009.
On the day he was sentenced, a 28-year-old neo-Nazi skinhead who viciously stabbed a black man in the head with scissors had an surprising epiphany.
“We have more in common than we don’t,” Ryan Zietlow-Brown told his victim in court, apologizing for the hate crime he committed in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif., in August 2011.
Zietlow-Brown was sentenced on Tuesday to 22 years and 4 months in prison after pleading no contest in early January to felony charges of attempted murder and mayhem with a hate crime motivation, the Santa Barbara Independent reported today.
Defense attorney Steven Andrade told the court that Zietlow-Brown had been awake for five days, high on methamphetamine, and that he suffered from a “brain irregularity” causing impulsive behavior. Andrade argued that the crime was more a consequence of Zietlow-Brown being “angry and out of control” rather than being racially motivated.
Prosecutor Kim Siegel said Zietlow-Brown was involved in multiple racially based fights prior to his arrest, showing “complete disregard for human safety and life,” the newspaper reported. She disagreed with a defense claim that the young man has given up his white supremacist affiliations.
Addressing the court, the defendant also apologized his mother, Shelya Rosenbaum — who is Jewish and of African-American descent — for his beliefs.
After sentencing, she told the newspaper she and her husband had spent tens of thousands of dollars on boot camps and therapy, but “no amount of treatment or money can overcome addiction.” She also apologized to the victim and gave him a hug as they left the courtroom.
The FBI has opened an “initial inquiry” – a procedural step before a full investigation – into this week’s fatal shootings of three young Muslims at a housing complex in Chapel Hill, N.C., near the University of North Carolina.
“The FBI has also opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case,” the FBI said in a statement, the Washington Post reports in today’s editions.
Chapel Hill police currently are the lead agency in investigating the shooting deaths on Tuesday of newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, all students at the University of North Carolina.
Before a formal investigation is begun by the FBI, the agency frequently opens what it calls an “initial inquiry” to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify full-blown federal intervention. With the FBI involved, federal charges can be filed against suspects in an investigation, supplanting or supporting state charges.
A neighbor of the victims, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, surrendered to police after the shootings. He has been charged with three counts of murder and remains in jail. Chapel Hill police have said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” may have been a factor in the shootings.
But Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the sisters who were killed, has publicly said the murders were a hate crime and called upon the FBI to investigate. “This has hate crime written all over it,” the father told reporters at the funeral of his daughters. Others, including fellow Muslims, have echoed that sentiment.
The Washington Post reported that the shooting “has stirred a deep sense of fear and vulnerability” for Muslims living in and near Chapel Hill. “As thousands gathered Thursday to mourn the victims, more and more people there were discussing whether bias played a role in the shootings and the larger issue of anti-Islamic sentiment,” the newspaper reported.
Hicks’ Facebook page was filled with statements against religion of all types, although Islam was not particularly singled out. Hicks also was a gun enthusiast, as evidenced by his many postings on gun websites and also an Amazon “wish list” that included such items as rifle scopes. In addition, the sisters’ father has said that one of his daughters told him before her murder that she had a scary neighbor who appeared to be upset by the traditional Muslim hijabs the two women wore.
There are other reasons for Muslims in America to feel under siege. Recent weeks and months have been thick with news of jihadist horrors — the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the murder of American Kayla Mueller by the Islamic State and the beheadings and burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by the same group, the Taliban’s mass murder of 145 people at a school in Pakistan, and more.
A poll out earlier this week, from LifeWay, a Christian nonprofit research group, found that 27% of Americans now see the barbaric Islamic State as representative of mainstream Islam. A variety of politicians and pundits have been aggressively attacking Muslims and their faith, often in the guise of working to pass laws to prevent the imposition of Shariah law on American courts — an impossibility under the Constitution.
And that’s not all.
This morning, American Muslims awoke to the news that a large building at a new Islamic community center in Houston had been entirely gutted by an early morning fire. Though officials were not saying if the blaze was caused by arson, officials at the center said they had been told that it was started by a person, although perhaps accidentally.
Imam Zahid Abdullah also told ABC News that he saw a suspicious man near the center on Wednesday and last night. “My son was passing by here and somebody was sitting her in a white Ram, making mockery, chanting, “ he said.
Another Islamic center in Houston was attacked by arsonists in 2011. There have been similar attacks on Islamic centers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Corvallis, Ore.
President Obama issued a statement about the triple homicide in Chapel Hill today that sought to reassure Muslims, calling the murders “brutal and outrageous,” and confirming that the FBI’s would see if federal laws were violated.
“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said.
Just hours after the release of a surveillance photo, two men were arrested for the hate-crime assault of a transgender woman who, with the help of dozens of supporters, took her case this week to the Spokane City Council.
Adam R. Flippen, 45, faces charges of second-degree assault and malicious harassment. Marc A. Fessler, 42, is charge with one count of malicious harassment, a felony hate crime charge in Washington State. The suspects, arrested at their defense attorney’s office, were released by a judge on Wednesday after spending a night in jail. Prosecutors say formal charges are forthcoming.
The victim, Jacina Scamahorn, who is homeless, told investigators she was on a public sidewalk outside Boots Bakery & Lounge and the Zola bar on Friday evening when two men began making negative, unsolicited comments about her gender identity.
The victim said the comments upset her and she spit in the face of one of the men before they followed her inside the bakery, screaming obscenities, as the assault took place before witnesses. Scamahorn said she was punched in the face and kicked, causing a blackened eye and broken facial bones.
One witness who attempted to intervene on the victim’s behalf said he, too, was threatened, but wasn’t assaulted by the two men.
As Scamahorn lay on the floor in her own blood and vomit after the attack, police wouldn’t let a bartender provide her aid and repeatedly referred to her as a man, the victim told media outlets.
A responding police officer said in a report that he thought Scamahorn appeared intoxicated because he was unable to get a statement from the victim. Scamahorn said she had not been drinking and witnesses told police she wasn’t intoxicated.
“I wasn’t able to talk,” Scamahorn said, because “fluid was at the back of my throat. I couldn’t breathe.”
The suspects made voluntary statements to detectives at the office of their attorney where they went shortly after surveillance photos were released by police on Tuesday. The suspects denied calling the victim “derogatory names” and accused her of “causing a scene,” The Spokesman-Review reported.
Flippen admitted punching the victim once, but both denied kicking her, according to court documents. “Flippen and Fessler both said they assumed Scamahorn was a poorly dressed man even though she was wearing a skirt,” the newspaper reported, citing court documents.
Police in Spokane have released a surveillance photo of two men wanted for questioning about an assault of a transgender woman following widespread calls from the LGBT community for police action.
Sporting a black eye, Jacina Carla Scamahorn described her attack Monday at a public meeting of the Spokane City Council before a near-capacity crowd of 150 supporters.
The attack has ignited fury and calls for prosecution across the LGBT community, with at least one witness telling a Spokane television station that the victim, who is homeless, “was targeted because she is a transgender woman,” KREM-TV in Spokane reported.
When an African-American man was assaulted and fatally run over with a pickup truck in Jackson, Miss., in 2011, it looked for a time like the crime may never be solved even though it was caught on surveillance camera and broadcast nationally.
Now, after an extensive 4-year investigation by the FBI, 10 young people have been convicted for their roles in the murder of James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker, and other similar racial attacks on victims that appeared homeless or intoxicated.
The latest guilty pleas came Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Miss.
John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon, Miss., pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Robert Henry Rice, 24, also from Brandon, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the act.
The statutory maximum sentence for these violations is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing for Blalack is set for April 23 and sentencing for Rice is set for April 30.
The case went all the way to the desk of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who released a statement today about the 10 arrests and convictions, calling it a “landmark case.”
“Justice has been served,” Holder said. “The hate crimes to which these defendants have pleaded guilty were as shocking as they were reprehensible—targeting innocent people for racially-motivated acts of violence that inflicted grievous harm and even claimed a life.”
Holder went on to say the Justice Department “will never rest in our pursuit of those who victimize their fellow citizens.”
“This landmark case should send a clear message: that anyone who commits an act of bias-motivated violence, or who violates the civil rights to which all Americans are entitled, will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Holder said.
Previously, Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22; John Aaron Rice, 21; Dylan Wade Butler, 23; Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22; and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, all from Brandon, and William Kirk Montgomery, 25, from Puckett, Miss., Shelbie Brooke Richards, 21, from Pearl, Miss., and Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, from Crystal Springs, Miss., pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in these offenses.
The FBI investigation revealed that beginning in the spring of 2011, Blalack, Robert Rice and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African-American people in and around Jackson.
On various occasions, the racist gang of young people “used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African-American people,” the Justice Department statement said.
The attackers “would specifically target African Americans they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults,” the statement said.
The attack on Anderson occurred after Blalack and others attended a birthday party and bonfire for a friend in Puckett, Miss. During the party, Blalack and others talked about going to Jackson to harass and assault African-American people, Justice Department officials said.
In the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, Blalack, Montgomery, Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, Butler, Richards and Graves agreed to carry out their plan to find, harass and assault African-American people. Robert Rice did not accompany his friends on that trip to Jackson.
At around 4:15 a.m., Blalack, Montgomery, John Aaron Rice, and Butler drove to Jackson in Montgomery’s white Jeep with the understanding that Dedmon, Richards and Graves would join them a short time later. Blalack and the other three occupants of the Jeep then drove around Jackson and threw beer bottles from the moving vehicle at African-American pedestrians.
At approximately 5:00 a.m., Blalack and the other three occupants in the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot. The occupants of the Jeep decided that Anderson would be a good target for an assault because he was African-American and appeared to be visibly intoxicated, the Justice Department statement said.
Blalack and John Aaron Rice decided to get out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Dedmon, Richards and Graves to arrive.
After Dedmon, Richards and Graves arrived in Dedmon’s Ford F250 truck, Dedmon and John Aaron Rice physically assaulted Anderson. Rice first punched Anderson in the face, knocking Anderson to the ground, and then Dedmon punched Anderson in the face multiple times while he was on the ground.
After the assault, Blalack, Montgomery, Rice and Butler left the motel parking lot in the Jeep. As they left, one of the occupants of the Jeep yelled, “White Power!” Prior to getting back into his truck, Dedmon responded by also yelling “White Power!”
“Once back in his Ford F250 truck, Dedmon deliberately used his vehicle to run over Anderson, causing injuries which resulted in his death,” the Justice Department statement said. Blalack’s guilty plea includes his role in that offense.
On a previous occasion, the Justice Department said, Blalack, Montgomery, Butler and Dominick drove around west Jackson to find and assault African Americans. Blalack and the other occupants of the vehicle purchased bottles of beer to drink and then threw the beer bottles at African Americans.
The occupants of the vehicle also purchased a sling-shot and used it “to shoot metal ball bearings out of the moving vehicle at African American pedestrians,” the statement said. Blalack pleaded guilty for his role in this offense.
Another racially motivated assault involving members of the gang occurred at or near a golf course in Jackson. On that evening, Robert Rice, Blalack, Montgomery, Gaskamp, Dedmon and John Aaron Rice were in a vehicle again searching for “vulnerable African-American men to assault,” the statement said.
When a potential victim was spotted, Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Gaskamp got out of their vehicle and chased the victim down. “The three men beat the man to the point that he begged for his life,” the Justice Department said. Investigators did not disclose if that victim was ever located or identified. Robert Rice’s guilty plea included his role in that offense.
A neo-Nazi skinhead with a criminal record faces sentencing next month for a hate crime in which he used a pair of scissors to stab an African-American man in the head in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2011.
Ryan Christopher Zietlow-Brown, also known as Ryan Christopher Rosenbaum, pleaded no-contest Tuesday in Santa Barbara
Superior Court to felony charges of attempted murder and mayhem. He faces up to 22 years in prison.
As part of the plea, Zietlow-Brown, 28, acknowledged he committed the felonies as part of his skinhead gang affiliation and that the offenses were hate crimes as described by California state law, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Siegel told Hatewatch.
A “no contest” plea means the defendant acknowledges that he or she would be found guilty based on the facts of the case, if it were to go to trial.
According to court testimony, Zietlow-Brown encountered two men on Aug. 12, 2011, as they walked to a McDonald’s on State Street in Santa Barbara. The two co-workers – one black and one white – were singing a song by a well-known rap group.
Zietlow-Brown approached and asked the victim “if the boy [with him] was white.” When the victim replied, “Yes, why are you asking?” Zietlow-Brown responded, “Tell him to ….[expletive] start acting like it.” The victim told Zietlow-Brown to mind his own business and continued walking.
Minutes later, as the two men were walking back to work, Zietlow-Brown approached them again, now armed with a pair of scissors he had stolen from a nearby store, Siegel said.
Zietlow-Brown attacked the victim, stabbing him multiple times in the head before fleeing to the home of a female friend. He admitted the stabbing to her and she assisted in wiping blood from the scissors, Siegel said. Zietlow-Brown later was arrested based on descriptions of the attacker provided by eyewitnesses.
“The victim has recovered, but he still experiences pain,” the prosecutor told Hatewatch. “He does have some scarring, both emotional and physical, as a result of this attack.” He is expected to attend the sentencing hearing on Feb. 24.
The case against Zietlow-Brown has been delayed several times as investigators probed his connections to other neo-Nazi skinheads in the Simi Valley and in the state’s prison system, Siegel said.
Zietlow-Brown was an associate of Kenneth Richard Barber, 45, who was convicted in Santa Barbara County of attempted premeditated murder and assault with a deadly weapon for attacking fellow jail inmates, the prosecutor said. Barber is now serving a 40-year-to-life sentence at the California State Prison in Corcoran.
Two young women from Brandon, Miss., have confessed to federal hate crimes related to racially-motivated assaults carried out by them and their associates against African-American people, culminating in the 2011 murder of a man run over with a truck.
James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old auto plant worker who was African-American, was struck and killed on June 25, 2011, by a Ford F250 driven by a gang of white youths. His brutal murder was captured on surveillance video and broadcast nationally.
The gang of youths essentially had made a sport of looking for disabled, homeless or intoxicated African-Americans to verbally harass and physically assault, and then boasted about their deeds with the belief that such individuals would be less likely to contact law enforcement.
Shelbie Brooke Richards and Sarah Adelia Graves, both 21, each pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to violate the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Justice Department said in a news release. Richards also pleaded guilty to an additional count of concealing information about a felony. Sentencing dates have not been set.
A hate crime charge is being added to others filed against an Illinois man who was arrested last week after he allegedly targeted a synagogue with extensive vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti.
John White, 40, of Westmont, Ill., is being held under $5 million bond in the DuPage County Jail. He is charged with a hate crime at a place of religious purposes; institutional vandalism; illegal possession of a firearm, criminal damage to property and illegal possession of marijuana.
White was arrested on Oct. 21 after police responded to a report of a man driving a vehicle recklessly, damaging landscaping on the grounds of Etz Chaim Synagogue in Lombard, Ill. Moments earlier, seven windows at the synagogue had been broken and graffiti was written on an exterior wall.
DuPage County Assistant State’s Attorney Enza LaMonica told a judge on Friday that the suspect left a hatchet, a machete, an ax and a knife at the front entrance of the synagogue, the Chicago Tribune reported. Inside the suspect’s car, police found gun targets, rat poison, brass knuckles and a hateful note, the prosecutor told the court.
After White was arrested, police served a search warrant at his home in Westmont, Ill., where he lives with his mother. She told authorities her son, who as a record of drug arrests, has suffered from mental illness, the newspaper reported.
In the home, police located and seized “thousands of rounds of ammunition, and recovered a rifle, shotgun and four handguns.”
State Attorney Robert Berlin issued a statement calling the charges “extremely serious.”
“DuPage County is built on the strength of our communities, and an attack on a religious institution is considered an attack against the entire community,” the prosecutor said.
Rabbi Andrea Cosnowsky issued a statement saying Congregation Etz Chaim “condemns the recent act of vandalism on our congregational building and the apparent bigotry behind it.”
Other places of worship are offering support.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Sabet Siddiqui, a representative of Masjid-Ul-Haqq Mosque in Lombard, said: “We stand together with Congregation Etz Chaim with respect and condemn these acts of hatred and antagonism against any religion.”
Eileen Maggiore, a pastoral associate at Christ the King Church in Lombard, expressed sorrow of such hate crimes. “It’s a terrible shame that this still happens in our world. We are grateful no one was hurt and we stand in solidarity with our neighbors at Congregation Etz Chaim,” she said.
Charges of committing a religious hate crime and manufacturing machine guns have been filed against an oil field worker in the small central California community of Taft.
Jack Alfred Dennis, 34, of Taft, posted a $42,500 bond and was released over the weekend after being arrested Sept. 12 by police who went to his place of employment, then served a search warrant at his home.
Dennis has been charged with two counts of possessing machine guns, two counts of manufacturing machine guns and a fifth count of committing a religious hate crime, Taft Police Lt. Peter Aranda told Hatewatch this week.
Police identified Dennis as a potential suspect after various community fund-raising signs produced by Westside Believers Fellowship, a church based in Taft, were defaced with anti-religious graffiti, Aranda said.”
While searching the suspect’s home for material used to deface these signs, officers discovered the [illegal] firearms in the residence,” Aranda said.
Officers also found an assortment of “antigovernment pamphlets,” which the police official couldn’t immediately describe more fully. They also found an assortment of books, including To Hell with God, Silent Death, The Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacturing, Vest Buster and Poor Man’s James Bond.
Aranda said police seized two AK-47 assault rifles, illegally modified to fire fully automatic, a bolt-action rifle and multiple “parts and pieces” for various firearms, along with more than 300 rounds of high-powered ammunition. No drugs or evidence of drug manufacturing were discovered.
“We don’t believe at this time he has any direct ties with any formal [extremist] organizations,” the police official said.