Man sentenced to 15 years for hate crime violations

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In Bakersfield, CA, a man who fired a shotgun toward a Latino man while shouting racial slurs has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for a federal hate crime.

Justin Cole Whittington, 25, was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd.

In December 2012, the victim, a Latino man, had been standing with his wife and son in their front yard when Whittington drove past and came to a stop. Whittington then emerged from his car with a sawed-off shotgun, and fired one round toward the victim from about 15 yards away while yelling racial insults and saying the victim should move out of the neighborhood.

Whittington returned to his vehicle and drove to a close-by convenient store owned by a man of Middle Eastern descent. He fired a shot at the man’s store, leaving a large hole in the store’s door.

The victim described Whittington and his car to Kern County Sherriff’s deputies, who proceeded to find the perpetrator and his shotgun nearby.

Although Whittington was captured, the victim and his family felt unsafe in their home and left the neighborhood as soon as they could afford to move.

In December 2016, Whittington was convicted for using or threatening force to hamper an individual’s housing rights due to race, color, or national origin; using a firearm during a violent crime; and making false statements to the FBI.

The 15-year federal hate crime sentence was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert of the Eastern District of California announced.

Mr. Wheeler stated, “Hate violence has no place in our society. It harms individuals and entire communities by threatening their sense of security and freedom.”

“In this case, Whittington fired a shotgun at the victim, terrorizing him and his family, because of his Latino ethnicity. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute hate crimes so that all people, no matter the color of their skin, their country of origin, or how they worship, can live their lives freely and without fear.”

Mr. Talbert added, “The sentence handed down today reflects the seriousness of hate crimes such as this, which cause not only the victims but entire communities to feel vulnerable and unsafe. Our district is one that is rich in diversity, and my office is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who violate community members’ civil rights through acts of hate and intimidation.”

Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI Sacramento field office, who worked with law enforcement officers in Kern County, said:

“Whittington’s threats and intimidation of his neighbors were despicable acts and not reflective of the America we all want to live in.”

In a separate incident, Whittington was arrested in April 2015 for slapping a toddler in the face at a convenience store.  That incident was caught on the store’s surveillance video.

H/T: Department of Justice

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