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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Prosecuting Hate Crimes to Fullest Extent of the Law

A shortened version of this column appeared August 14, 2012 in the Arizona Daily Star. Feel free to post comments there (lots of right wing comments there):

At the Aug 7 trial for Randall Leon Thompson, the person accused of leaving three death threats against me in my university voicemail, was placed under supervised probation for a year, but was spared jail time.

The judge said he found his behavior disgusting and was inclined to throw him in jail, if I strongly objected to the deal negotiated by the attorneys.

For a moment, I had the power to send Mr. Thompson to jail. I had good reason to do so; the threats he sent in May 2011 were vicious and laced with racial venom. His tirades were in response to my purported role in defending TUSD's Mexican American Studies (MAS) department, which has since been dismantled as a result of the district complying with the anti-Ethnic Studies HB 2281.

These threats came subsequent to one posted on YouTube against the UNIDOS students who had taken over the Tucson school boardroom several weeks before. That threat urged viewers to "shoot them in the head," but was dismissed by the Tucson Police Department as "a joke."

The reason I did not exercise the judge's option is because I don't consider Mr. Thompson to be the intellectual author of the threats against me. True, he vocalized them, but he, like many in this state, have been goaded, and manipulated, often by the state's top politicians and others who exploit racial or cultural divisions within society (for an insight into hate from above, see stories re former State Senate President Russell Pearce's emails, along with Sheriff Joe Arpaio's communique's).

That daily spewing of hatred towards Mexicans and Mexican culture, disguised as "a war against 'illegals'" is a form of dehumanization that permits these politicos to spew out their hatred. They do this while claiming that they are not aiming their disdain at actual peoples, but rather simply at "lawbreakers" (The MAS struggle has nothing to do with migration, illegal or otherwise). The hatred spewed out by Mr. Thompson, is little different from what one reads in the comments section in the daily newspapers.

That's not to negate that Mr. Thompson is a conscious adult. Indeed he is responsible, or needs to be made responsible, for his actions. Seeing him in the courtroom, it was difficult to see him as the same man who threatened to use a 357 Magnum against me and who also threatened to war against Mexicans. And yet, for all his threats, he pled guilty but to one count of using a telephone to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass.

On the same day, Jared Lee Loughner, pled guilty to 19 counts in court, for the shooting of 19 in Tucson the year before, including the serious wounding of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This is on the heels of the murder of 6 Sikhs in Wisconsin last week and the Colorado massacre that left 12 dead and 58 injured last month.

The reason I did not "strongly object" to this deal, is because I was unclear why Mr. Thompson was not facing felonies.

At an earlier hearing I had asked the court that question, and when I was permitted to read a statement in court Aug. 7, I also asked why no hate crime charges were filed? In response, the judge said it was a good question and one that I need to ask of the region's U.S. Attorney.

I do plan to do this, as these threats appear to come under the U.S. Justice Department definition of a hate crime ( It reads:
"Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability. The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims..."
Given Arizona's recent history, it shouldn't be up to me to pursue these hate crime charges. State Atty. General, Tom Horne, the intellectual author of HB 2281, stated on Aug 3, 2012 in Tucson, that he believes the threats to be hate crimes.

Beyond that, true justice can only come about when the intellectual authors of this hate also have their date in court. Here's another quote from that same memo:
"When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations."
In Arizona, how do you prosecute that hate when it appears to come from the very top? My suggestion: one perpetrator at a time.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. 

Roberto Cintli Rodriguez

Five of Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez's books and one video are on the banned curriculum list. The video is: “Amoxtli San Ce Tojuan.” The books are: “Justice: A Question of Race,” “Gonzales/Rodriguez: Uncut and Uncensored,” “The X in La Raza,” “Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human,” and “Cantos Al Sexto Sol.” This last book is a collection of more than 100 Raza/Indigenous writers, writing on the topic of origins and migrations. These bans highlight that virtually the entire cultural production of the past generation of Raza/Indigenous writers/artists has been criminalized.

Rodriguez teaches at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: -

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