18 October 2010

Justin Rehberg Pleads Guilty to Some Charges; Denies Hate As a Motive

At least one of the two men accused of burning a cross on the lawn of a mixed race couple has plead guilty to one count of harassment, but he appears to be pleading innocent to charges of inciting hatred:
N.S. man pleads guilty to harassment, not hatred in cross-burning
Windsor, N.S.— The Canadian PressPublished Last updated  
A Nova Scotia man charged after a cross was burned earlier this year on the lawn of an interracial couple has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment. 
But Justin Rehberg proceeded with his trial Monday on the charge of inciting racial hatred. Two other charges — uttering threats and mischief — were dropped. 
Crown lawyer Darrell Carmichael argued that setting a cross on fire on Feb. 21 just after midnight was terrifying and a clear incitement to racial hatred. 
But defence lawyer Chris Manning said while his client's act was “contemptible,” it didn't have the effect of inciting others to racial hatred. 
Instead, he noted the cross-burning prompted an anti-racism march. 
Shayne Howe, who is black, and Michelle Lyon, who is white, said they awoke early in the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 21 to find a two-metre cross burning in front of their rural home in Poplar Grove in central Nova Scotia. They said the cross had a noose attached. 
They also told police they heard someone yelling racial slurs, but couldn't see them.
At the time, Ms. Lyon said the couple and their five children, aged two to 17, were terrified by the incident and considered moving from the Windsor area. 
But they said they were encouraged to stay when the community rallied to support them. The family received phone calls, emails, cards and personal visits from people across the province offering their support and expressing shock. 
Outside the Windsor court, Ms. Lyon said she is still concerned for her safety.
“I'm always afraid of what's going to happen,” she said. 
“I don't go out usually after dark. I'm home, doors are locked, alarms set. I'm very diligent on safety in the home and safety when I'm outside the home, only because there is a lot of media coverage on this and there are a lot of supporters on their side.” 
Provincial court Judge Claudine MacDonald adjourned Rehberg's case until Nov. 5. 
That's when she is expected to rule on his not guilty plea and set a date for sentencing on the guilty plea. 
Mr. Rehberg's brother, Nathan, is also charged in the case. His trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 10.
This here is our favorite part:
But defence lawyer Chris Manning said while his client's act was “contemptible,” it didn't have the effect of inciting others to racial hatred. 
Instead, he noted the cross-burning prompted an anti-racism march.
Right. Because that others were disgusted by Justin Rehberg's actions that they came together to publicly condemn the act, that should be a mitigating factor in the trial on hate charges. We can see how that could be argued to a jury:

"So you see ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Mr. Rehberg burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple actually brought the community together. Instead of prosecuting him, Mr. Rehberg should be given an award for promoting tolerance. Truly, Justin Rehberg is sort of a Gandhi... no.... he's a Christ-like figure. We should thank him for this great gift he's given our community."

Can you believe there are people who think we're sarcastic?

The defence attorney seems to have forgotten about the subsequent torching of the couples' car which then prompted their desire to leave their community (we don't know if they did ultimately move).

Seems like the cross burning could have played a role in prompting the follow-up act of harassment.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

And the Lionel Hutz Award for 2010 goes to...

Anonymous said...

And as he saw the community rally together to protest what he'd done, he suddenly saw the true meaning of Christmas and so on and so forth...