Despite the tears he shed for his victim yesterday morning, Daniel Spencer Porter fits "the definition of a racist," a Baltimore judge said yesterday, as he found Porter criminally responsible for chasing a black man into a near-fatal traffic accident on Eastern Avenue last July 19.
"There was nothing there at all that would cause you to chase this man, other than that he was with a white woman," Chief Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman of the Baltimore Circuit Court told the Highlandtown man.
The judge convicted Porter of all charges -- assault, reckless endangerment and racial harassment -- and ordered a psychological and medical evaluation. Porter, 21, of the 3300 block of Leverton Avenue is just above the upper limit for mental retardation and has been treated for hyperactivity and psychiatric disorders since he was 6 years old, according to medical reports in evidence at the trial.
The victim, Herbert Jennings, a 33-year-old former cook at Haussner's restaurant, declined to comment after the verdict, as did his former girlfriend, Jennifer Gonzalez.
But both testified Monday that an unidentified man in a pickup truck yelled racial remarks at them as they were walking along Eastern Avenue about 10 p.m. July 19. The driver followed them from Eastern Avenue up East Avenue -- where Porter saw the harassment and joined in, offering "to get the nigger," they said.
Frightened, Mr. Jennings ran back toward Eastern Avenue with Porter chasing behind -- within an arm's length, according to one witness -- and fell under the wheels of a truck as he attempted to cross the busy street.
Porter testified yesterday that he thought either Mr. Jennings or the truck driver was threatening Ms. Gonzalez because "she was screaming."
When Mr. Jennings started running, Porter said, "I started chasing him, and he got hit. I'll never forget that day." He sobbed and continued, "He got to the corner, and I stopped running, because I didn't want the man to get hit."
Under cross-examination by Assistant State's Attorney Jack I. Lesser, Porter said he liked black people: "Yes, I do. I hang with them. Why should I not like colored people? I don't consider them black, because if they are pink inside and have the same color blood and the same blood cells, the only thing that is different between us is the skin."
He insisted that he learned in sixth grade that "a nigger is an ignorant person that does ignorant things to people" -- a word suitable for any race.
Judge Hammerman set sentencing April 1. Maximum penalties would total 28 years in prison.