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An Idaho judge today sentenced a racist skinhead to up to five years in prison for maliciously harassing a black man who, it turned out, was a former boxer who defended himself last summer with a one-punch knockout.
Daren C. Abbey, who has been free on bond, appeared surprised as he was led from a courtroom in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in handcuffs after 1st District Judge Benjamin Simpson imposed a three-year “fixed sentence” to be followed by a two-year indeterminate sentence.
Abbey’s defense attorney had argued that the 29-year-old, who has a lengthy criminal record, should be placed on unsupervised probation and allowed to return to Ferndale, Mont., near Kalispell, where he was working in construction.
The judge retained jurisdiction of the case for one year, which means Abbey could be brought back to court for a reduction of his sentence after he completes alcohol and drug counseling while in the custody of the Idaho Department of Corrections. The state offers three levels of counseling, which can last from 3½ to 9 months.
“This is a troubling case,” the judge said in sentencing Abbey.
Abbey, who body is covered in racist tattoos, was arrested last July outside a bar in Bayview, Idaho, on Lake Pend Oreille, after yelling racial epithets, following and then assaulting Marion L. Baker, a 46-year-old African-American man. Abbey attacked Baker without bothering to read the back of Baker’s T-shirt, which said, “Spokane Boxing Club champion.”
Two months later, while being held in the Kootenai County Jail, Abbey engaged in similar conduct with a jail security guard who is Latino, court documents show.
When guard F. Gayton entered a set of cells called O-Pod, Abbey yelled out, claiming his sleep was being disrupted. When the guard ordered the inmate out of his bunk, “Abbey came walking toward me swinging both arms and shoulders in an aggressive manner with a stern look on his face as if he wanted to fight,” the documents quote the guard saying. As the guard ordered Abbey to face the wall and put his hands behind his back, “Abbey said, ‘Fuck you, you spick!’” the documents say.
For that incident, Abbey was charged with an additional count of malicious harassment and assault on jail staff – both felonies. Those charges were both dismissed as part of a “no-contest” plea bargain that saw Abbey plead guilty last December to malicious harassment of Baker. He was released on bond on Dec. 8 and has been out of jail since that time.
Baker didn’t exercise his right as a victim to show up and address the court at the sentencing hearing. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Green said Baker “had a work conflict” and couldn’t appear. Members of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, who have tracked the case, also didn’t appear or address the court.
Baker was first confronted by Abbey inside JD’s Bar on the scenic North Idaho waterfront on the July 4th weekend. Abbey told Baker he didn’t belong in the bar because of the color of his skin, then ordered him to “leave before something happened,” according to a sheriff’s report.
When Baker did leave – apparently taking note of Abbey’s extensive racist tattoos – Abbey followed him outside for 300 yards, yelling racial taunts as witnesses watched, the sheriff’s report said. Finally, after Baker was poked in the chest, he threw one punch that felled Abbey, who fell unconscious to the ground.
The deputy prosecutor said Abbey has a “lengthy history of this type of behavior” and credited Baker with showing “an incredible display of self-control” by walking away after behind initially harassed.
Defense attorney Brad Chapman said his client now has three metal plates in his head, faces $30,000 in medical bills and “does not pose a current or imminent danger to the public at large.” “There may have been some inappropriate language,” Chapman said of what witnesses described as his client’s racist tirade.
The defense attorney told the court that Abbey’s white supremacist views – “certain ideologies” — come from time he has served in prison. “Sometimes it’s a matter of survival,” Chapman told the court.
The defense attorney said Abbey “is not the person depicted” in sheriff’s reports and “has suffered from this incident, and will continue [to suffer], perhaps for the rest of his life.”
Addressing the court before sentencing, Abbey didn’t offer an apology to Baker and claimed he had never been given an opportunity “to give my side of the story.” “I probably did make the wrong decision, and the result of that is I got beat up pretty bad,” he told the judge. “If anything, this was a huge learning lesson,” Abbey added.
As he was being taken into custody in the courtroom, Abbey’s mother suddenly stood up and asked if she could address the court – something the defense attorney had not requested. “No, not now, this matter is closed,” the judge told her as she wept softly.