White man faces 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine for assaulting Black neighbor
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 3/20/2018, 11:28 a.m.
A white man in Salt Lake, Utah, didn’t want any African Americans to live in his apartment complex, so he verbally assaulted a child and then used some kind od stun devoice on the kid’s father. Now he’ facing 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Mike Waldvogel moved his family to a Draper apartment complex in 2016 because the schools in the area are good and he thought his family would be safe in the community, a federal prosecutor said Monday.
But about six months later, neighbor Mark Olic Porter began yelling, “Get out of here, n-----” to Waldvogel’s 7-year-old son as the African-American boy rode a scooter in a courtyard at the Adagio apartments, Department of Justice trial attorney Rose Gibson said.
And, she said, Porter struck Waldvogel in the neck with a stun device when the father tried to ask him not to talk to his son that way. “His desire was that no black people would live there” at Adagio, Gibson said, adding that Porter was willing to use violence to that end.
Gibson described the prosecutors’ version of events in opening statements at Porter’s trial in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. He is charged with interfering with housing rights based on the victim’s race. If convicted of the hate crime, the 59-year-old faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Spencer Rice said the case is not about whether Porter is an offensive person but whether his actions were enough under the law to show he specifically intended to interfere with Waldvogel’s housing rights. Rice said they were not, describing the incident as a “sudden reactionary moment” that occurs in high density housing. He told jurors that “you don’t have to like him, you don’t have to agree with him” to find Porter not guilty. To get a conviction, prosecutors have to prove Porter used force or a threat of force; willfully injured, intimidated or interfered with Waldvogel; acted because Waldvogel was occupying a dwelling and because of his race or color; and that his conduct resulted in bodily injury to Waldvogel. Rice, an assistant federal public defender, has said in a court brief that the incident at the Adagio — a 44-acre complex at 13343 Minuteman Drive with nearly 500 units — was not sparked by racism but rather by playful children causing problems for other tenants. Porter’s wife told authorities the boy had previously “doorbell-ditched” their apartment and intentionlly annoyed them in the past, according to the brief.
Another neighbor told police that Porter once became very angry at her white 7-year-old son because of an incident with a football landing near his patio, the brief says. The mother, who is white, said she confronted Porter about the way he spoke to her child and he responded using several racial and ethnic slurs. On Monday, Adagio leasing agent Andrew Williams testified that when Porter first toured the complex, he asked how many black families lived there. Williams said he responded that even if he wanted to, he couldn’t tell Porter because of fair housing laws.Also testifying were three Adagio maintainance workers, two of whom said that when the unit above Porter’s became vacant, he asked them not to move any “n------“ into the apartment. Two of the workers also said Porter read to them a piece he had written that was based on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The dream in Porter’s version was that all “n------“ are dead, according to the workers’ testimony. The trial continues Tuesday, when Waldvogel is expected to testify.