Anti-Asian E-Mail Was Hate Crime, Jury Finds

David Honig honig at
Wed Feb 11 11:33:46 PST 1998


                                       Wednesday, February 11, 1998 

            Anti-Asian E-Mail Was Hate Crime, Jury Finds 
              Internet: Ex-UCI student Richard Machado is found to have
violated civil
            rights with threatening messages. 
            By DAVAN MAHARAJ, Times Staff Writer
                      SANTA ANA--In the nation's first successful
prosecution of
                      a hate crime on the Internet, an expelled university
                  was found guilty Tuesday of violating the civil rights of
                  students at UC Irvine by sending e-mail threats to kill
them if they
                  didn't leave the school. 
                       Prosecutors hailed the verdict in the retrial of
                  Richard J. Machado as a victory for federal authorities
seeking to
                  police the Internet to deter hatemongers and racist groups. 
                       "This verdict shows that high-tech hate is not going
to be
                  tolerated," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael J. Gennaco,
                  prosecuted the case. "A line does have to be drawn in the
world of
                  cyberspace. If you cross that line and threaten people,
you are
                  going to be subject to criminal penalties." 
                       The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for
less than a
                  day before finding Machado guilty of interfering with
students' rights
                  to attend a public university. Jurors deadlocked 9 to 3
in favor of
                  conviction on a second, identical count. 
                       Machado displayed no emotion when the verdict was read
                  Tuesday afternoon. His first trial ended in a mistrial in
                  with jurors deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal. 
                       Because his conviction carries a maximum sentence of
one year
                  in prison and he has already served more time than that
in custody,
                  Machado could be set free as early as Friday, when he
appears for
                  sentencing before U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H.
                       Gennaco, who heads the civil rights division of the
                  attorney's office in Los Angeles, downplayed Machado's
                       "What we've taken from this case is a deterrent
value that
                  people can't get on the Internet and send threats to
folks," Gennaco
                       Gennaco hinted that prosecutors would now be more
likely to
                  step in and prosecute computer users who stalk or
threaten others
                  in cyberspace. 
                       "We have a number of ongoing investigations regarding
                  allegations of threats on the Internet," Gennaco said.
"Now we have
                  some guidance from 12 people that the government can step
in and
                  enforce laws on the Internet." 
                       Machado's trial--and retrial--had been seen as a
test case. 
                       To prosecute Machado, prosecutors turned to civil
rights laws
                  enacted in the 1960s that were designed to prevent
                  from standing in the way of school desegregation. 
                       Machado violated students' civil rights, prosecutors
                  when he hunched over a computer in UCI's engineering
building on
                  Sept. 20, 1996, and sent an anonymous e-mail message to
                  60 mainly Asian students. 
                       The message, signed "Asian Hater," warned that all
                  should leave UC Irvine or the sender would "hunt all of
you down
                  and kill your stupid asses." 
                       "I personally will make it my [life's work] to find
and kill every
                  one of you personally. OK? That's how determined I am. Do
                  hear me?" 
                       Apparently thinking the first one didn't get
transmitted, Machado
                  sent the same message twice, and school officials quickly
traced the
                  messages to him after they received complaints. 
                       The e-mail incensed and upset some students,
especially those
                  of Asian descent, who constitute nearly half of UC
Irvine's 17,000
                  students, the highest percentage of any UC school. 
                       Several students testified that they were petrified
by the e-mail.
                  They armed themselves with pepper spray, refused to go
out alone
                  at night and became suspicious of strangers. 
                       The defense called other students who testified that
they became
                  angry over the message but later shrugged it off as a bad
                       During the trial, defense lawyers depicted Machado as a
                  disturbed teenager who became distraught and flunked out
of UCI
                  after his eldest brother was murdered in Los Angeles. 
                       When he sent the threatening e-mail, Machado was no
longer a
                  UCI student, but he was too ashamed to tell his immigrant
                  according to Deputy Federal Public Defender Sylvia
                       Machado testified at both trials that one of his
brothers would
                  drive him to UCI each day even after he had been
expelled. There,
                  he passed his days in the computer laboratory, sending and
                  receiving e-mail and surfing the Internet until it was
time to go home.

                       On the day he sent the e-mail, Machado testified, he
was bored
                  and wanted to start a "dialogue" with people who were
signed on to
                  the school's computer network. 
                       Some attorneys, including Machado's defense team,
                  whether charges should have been filed against the former
                       Torres-Guillen even called an expert witness in
                  etiquette, who described Machado's e-mail as "a classic
                  flame"--online lingo for an angry message that, while
annoying, is
                  not meant to be harmful. 
                       But Gennaco contended that Machado hated Asians because
                  they got better grades than he did. 
                       In his rebuttal case, the prosecutor called a
University of South
                  Carolina freshman and another computer user in Denver who
                  testified that Machado referred to Asians as "chinks"
when he
                  chatted with them in cyberspace. 
                       The witnesses contradicted Machado's testimony that
he never
                  used derogatory terms for Asians. 
                       Gennaco said prosecutors may suggest that Machado
attend a
                  racial awareness program as part of his sentence. 

                   Search the archives of the Los Angeles Times for similar
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                  Copyright Los Angeles Times 


      David Honig                   Orbit Technology
     honig at                  Intaanetto Jigyoubu

		Lewinsky for President '2012


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