Officials target hate crimes

Sentencing renews attention to issue of race relations

February 15, 2006|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL | ANDREA F. SIEGEL,SUN REPORTER

Leaders of a race relations council say they hope the jail sentence ordered this week for a teenager convicted of a hate crime, as well as the judge's punishment and harsh words, send the intended message that hate crimes are unacceptable.

And though the victim said he has put the incident behind him, convicted teenager Alan Lee Davis might find his notoriety more lasting in cyberspace as part of a planned initiative by the state's attorney's office.

On Monday, Davis, a white 19-year-old, was ordered jailed for 10 days for vandalism of his African-American neighbor's car. The damage included a profanity-ridden racial epithet scraped into the finish. The balance of a six-month sentence was suspended in favor of two years of supervised probation that is to include treatment for alcohol, drug and psychological problems for which Davis has been receiving help.

Davis paid restitution last year.

"The judge wanted to send a message, and he did," said Carl O. Snowden, an African-American leader who is an aide to Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens. The county "prides itself on being a progressive county, and a wonderful place to live" - at odds with the image of intolerance projected by hate crimes, he said.

Snowden is part of the leadership of the county's Race Relations Coordinating Council, an organization formed last summer after a series of incidents that included the May 30 vandalism in Hanover, in addition to white-supremacist leafleting of several communities in the Annapolis and Pasadena areas.

Davis' sentencing comes as the group is planning several methods to combat hate crimes.

Davis, meanwhile, might find himself getting more publicity. The state's attorney's office is looking into the putting on its Web site the mug shots of adults who have been convicted of committing hate crimes, said Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the office.

There have been fewer than five in recent years. The suggestion came a few weeks ago during a meeting of the race relations panel. Its leadership intends to pursue the idea with prosecutors during a meeting at the end of this month, Snowden said.

On Monday, Davis and his attorney, Ira J. Wagonheim, blamed drinking and other problems - but not racism - for the more than $3,000 in damage Davis did to Barry and Joan Turner's car.

Davis has a conviction for marijuana possession and received probation before judgment for drunken driving, according to court records, and a psychologist testified Monday that substance abuse contributed to his being easily overwhelmed by stress.

Davis said he wanted to apologize to the Turners, but a court order barred contact.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck said that words do hurt.

"I can only imagine what the Turners were going through when they saw the words you wrote on their car," Manck said.

Wagonheim maintained that his client was not a bigot and did not target the Turners. But the judge disagreed.

"I think that's exactly what you did," he told Davis.

The Turner family has "moved on," Barry Turner said after the hearing.

"As a parent, I am kind of sad," he said, adding that he harbors no animosity toward the Davis family.

Turner, who lives in the same neighborhood as Davis, said he has already been angry. His teenage sons - up in the early hours of that morning - heard the sounds of the car being smashed, looked out and recognized Davis, according to police.

"I don't know what is in his heart or in his head, I don't know if it was racist or not," he said.

Laura S. Kiessling, the lead hate crimes prosecutor for the state's attorney's office called the sentence, which she said was above state guidelines, "appropriate."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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