Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tyranny Of Federal Hate Crime Laws: Eric Loren Clawson Faces 10 Years In Federal Prison For Throwing One Punch At A Black Man In Chico, California

A White guy with an amateur MMA background walks into a bar, starts mouthing off to a Black Man, then takes an unprovoked punch at him and knocks him out for 30 seconds. First aid rendered, no hospitalization or surgery required. Logical penalty: Charge the White guy with aggravated assault, lock him up for a year (because of his MMA background, which makes his hands potentially lethal weapons), maybe a nominal fine. Right?

Wrong. In California, Eric Loren Clawson faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for doing what I described above. The Contra Costa Times reports that a jury of six men and six women found Clawson guilty of violating Carl Whitfield's civil rights after a three-day trial.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Clawson entered Riley's Bar & Grill in Chico on July 6th, 2008 with a friend, Joe Grivette, saw the 6-foot-4, 240 pound Whitfield sitting at the bar and said, "I'm not sitting here with that nigger." Later, Clawson told the bartender not to give him any of "that nigger booze." Some time later, Clawson walked up to Whitfield, tapped him on the shoulder and then, as he turned around, punched him in the face, knocking his head to the bar and causing him to lose consciousness for 20 to 30 seconds. Clawson left the bar and was arrested while driving away.

But Clawson maintains that he slugged Whitfield only after Whitfield pointed at him and made "impolite comments." He denied the punch was racially motivated and said he used the racist epithet only to the bartender as "a euphemism for cheap." Admittedly, this is a weak defense; impolite comments are rarely a justification to take a swing at someone unless they're considered "fighting words".

Clawson was jailed after the verdict and is scheduled to be sentenced June 10. Grivette was also charged with a hate crime, but under the terms of a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to the related but lesser charge of concealing a felony, may get as little as two months behind bars. Other sources for this story include the Sacramento Bee and Stormfront.

Analysis: This is clearly disproportionate punishment. A possible 10 years in jail merely for calling a Black guy a nigger while punching him one time. This implies that calling a Black man a nigger is worse than punching his lights out. This should have been handled at the state level - aggravated assault at worst. Also note how Grivette may get as little as two months for rolling on his pal - this is further proof that punishment in hate crime laws is disproportionate. Most likely Clawson won't get the full 10 years, but to significantly mitigate his sentence, he'll have to publicly proclaim a dramatic "road-to-Damascus" Pauline-type conversion to The Gospel of Diversity and Multiculturalism. Maybe even publicly kiss MLK's ass a couple of times for effect.

Another reason why we need to quash State Senator Bettye Davis' proposed hate crime bill, SB202, in Alaska. We should be prosecuting actions, not thoughts or emotions.

1 comment:

  1. merely calling a black guy a nigger? When will the ignorance end?