PORTLAND, Ore. — The Multnomah County District Attorney sentenced a 37-year-old man to 90 days in jail and ordered him to write a 500-word essay after he told an immigrant to "go back to your county," spat in that person's face and threatened them with a box cutter.
On Nov. 22, Harold Eugene Denson III pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful use of a weapon and one count of bias crime in the second degree.
“This is a unique resolution to a very serious incident,” said Nicole Hermann who prosecuted this case. “Mr. Denson needs to understand the impact his actions had on the victim and our immigrant communities. This is an opportunity for him to reconcile his behavior through compassion, learning and understanding.”
Denson will have until March to write the court ordered essay on the process and challenges people can face when moving to the United States from another country.
If the essay is not finished by March, Denson will be convicted of bias crime and could face additional sanction.
This investigation started on Aug. 25, 2019 when the victim, an immigrant from Ukraine, was working at a local car dealership. As the manager, he was told that there was someone on property who had thrown trash all over.
The victim grabbed a trash bag and approached the man, who was later identified as Denson. He gave Denson the trash bag and asked him to clean up the mess.
Denson initially said thank you, which prompted the victim to start walking away. However, Denson suddenly became agitated and started yelling that the car dealership was not the victim’s property and proclaimed it was “American soil.”
Denson asked the victim if he was American and where he was born. The victim turned around and briefly spoke with Denson who became more agitated. Denson spit in the victim’s face and told him him to go back to his own country.
Denson reached down and picked up a box cutter, with the blade extended, and pointed it at the victim and threatened to cut him.
The victim was able to separate himself from Denson and call police. Police responded and located Denson nearby and recovered a box cutter from his pocket upon arrest.
Oregon's laws on hate crimes recently underwent an overhaul. Senate Bill 577, which went into effect on July 15, 2019, renamed the crime of “intimidation” to “bias crime,” added gender identity to the list of protected categories and removed the requirement that two or more people need to commit the crime in order to make it a felony in certain circumstances.