Saturday, August 11, 2007

White Modesto (CA) Resident Bradley Smith Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Hate Crimes Against Black Neighbor

In a case that bears some initial resemblance to the Shaun Walker show trial, Bradley Smith, a 24-year old resident of Modesto, CA., pleaded not guilty to hate crimes in Federal court on August 6th, 2007. Smith has been charged with one count of interfering with the federal housing rights of the victim by threatening to set fire to his home, and one count of making false statements to a federal investigator. This post combines and summarizes a report from the Department of Justice with several reports from the Modesto Bee.

According to the indictment, on or about June 1, 2005, through May 24, 2007, Smith, who is white, repeatedly intimidated his victim, an African-American neighbor, threatening to burn a cross in his yard and threatening to throw an incendiary device at his home. Smith also threatened to sexually assault the man's wife and to hang the man from a tree. It is alleged that these threats were made on account of the victim's race, and were intended for the purpose of driving him out of his home, in violation of his right to housing. The indictment further states that, on or about May 15, 2006, Smith made a false statement to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who was investigating the alleged incidents, specifically denying that he threatened to burn a cross on the victims' lawn.

If convicted, Smith faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

After the federal grand jury indicted Smith on Thursday August 2nd, FBI agents arrested him on Thursday night. However, the first arraignment on Friday was curtailed because he had a seizure on the way to court. Bradley Smith, 24, was taken to the hospital, then returned to jail. A judge rescheduled his arraignment for Monday in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

Smith appeared in court on August 6th long enough to plead not guilty on both counts, but then experienced another medical emergency, the nature of which was unspecified, and was once again transported to hospital. After he left the courthouse Monday, Judge Sandra M. Snyder said Smith may be released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, but must return to court August 20th for a hearing on the conditions of his release. The judge also appointed a public defender to represent Smith.

FBI Special Agent Kenneth Tam investigated this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California, and Trial Attorney Douglas Kern from the Civil Rights Division.

Addendum: On August 3rd, the Modesto Bee published Henderson's own account of his orderal. Henderson was apparently willing to blow it off the first time, but couldn't after subsequent threats because of uncertainty over Smith's ultimate intentions.

"The first time he did it, I tried to let it go," Henderson said. "The second time it happened, I couldn't let it go because I didn't know what he would do".

Henderson, 52, said he thinks the housing charge stems from the fact that he purchased his home through a federal program. He claims he got little help from the Modesto police, despite numerous complaints, but had better luck when he took recordings of Smith's alleged threats to the FBI.

[Ed. Note: According to another Modesto Bee report, police had earlier arrested Smith for making a terroristic threat when he threatened to burn a cross on Henderson's lawn and hang him from a tree. However, the Stanislaus County district attorney's office declined to prosecute. After that point, a Modesto police detective contacted an FBI agent and suggested federal charges might be warranted.]

Henderson said the threats began on the public airways, because both men are ham radio operators and Smith did not want to hear a black man's voice on the radio. However, the situation escalated when Smith started calling him on his home telephone, then sitting in his car in front of the house, blowing his horn. The authorities tracked Smith through the phone calls.

Henderson said his wife, who commutes to a job in the Bay Area, was so worried that she had a mild stroke. They moved to the valley to care for his elderly parents and plan to stay. "He was trying to run me out of Modesto," Henderson said.

There's also an interesting exchange on the forum allegedly involving Bradley Smith. He was accused by another forum member of receiving stolen property and failing to pay what he owes. There's a reference to Smith's arrest by local police in November 2006:

Note: KG6WIV is Bradley Smith's call sign.

RE: KG6WIV is the same as Opie1 on CB in Modesto,
Reply by NOMDEPLUME on November 30, 2006

I just called the jail (209) 525-6427. His bail is only $10,000.00. That means he can use a bondsman and pay just $1,000.00 to get back out.

Brad Smith
D.O.B. 11-10-1982 (as stated by Brad up the thread)
California Penal Code section 496, receiving stolen property.

Yes, and Opie1, you live on Clarence Ave., Modesto, ca

Be preparred to get evicted from this house too. Just like you did at the Peach Ave. house and the last 4 you were evicted from for being a nuisence on the CB radio.

As for knowing more than most of us on EHAM, at least I know how NOT to get arrested!

Brad: May I suggest medication?

The last remark is strangely prescient because it foreshadowed the medical emergencies he experienced during both arraignment hearings. Perhaps the seizure which short-circuited the first arraignment hearing may have been triggered by lack of medication.

However, in a subsequent reply, Smith claims he was not in jail for anything to do with Ham radio:

RE: KG6WIV is the same as Opie1 on CB in Modesto,
Reply by KG6WIV on December 1, 2006 Mail this to a friend!

If you take it as a threat then take it that way..... I don't care that just means that you are describing it and putting that in your own words.... I don't care... what i was in jail for had nothing to do with HAM radio.... So please call the FCC call Riley I don't care i have not violated Any Ham rules.... if you take it as a threat then i am sorry to see that.... I was simply stating that You never know WHO hides behind the bush.........

So call the FBI CIA MPD so than I can Personally tell Them what it means I know now who you are and you of course you know who i am so stop your foolishness and shut up... be a good ham........

So apparently Bradley Smith must have been describing the first arrest by local police, which resulted in no charges pressed by the Stanislaus County D.A., and his subsequent release.

Analysis: Just like in the Shaun Walker case, there were no state charges preferred. So again, the Feds use "civil rights charges" to supersede the state.

However, Smith's rep from Ham radio will undoubtedly be used against him to portray him in a more unfavorable light. There is a moderate probability of conviction, although 15 years is clearly excessive for what is little more than an extended feud between neighbors. And this continuous feud is what differentiates this case from the Shaun Walker case. The latter case was based upon an overinterpretation of two separate cut-and-dried incidents.

By the way, the July 31st sentencing date passed, and there have been NO REPORTS on the final sentencing of Shaun Walker and his cohorts.

The two medical emergencies experienced during his arraignment hearings, one identified as a seizure, imply some psychological problem that prevents Smith from properly governing his emotions. This could be cited as a mitigating factor.

But it shows that 43 years of civil rights propaganda can't make people of different races into bosom buddies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Modesto man found guilty of making racist threats
He faces 15 years in prison for harassing neighbor


last updated: May 21, 2008 08:25:11 AM

A Modesto man who made racist threats against a black neighbor, including a promise to burn a cross on that man's lawn, was found guilty of two felonies Monday and faces up to 15 years in prison.

Bradley Jay Smith, who suffered several seizures during a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Fresno, was immedi- ately taken into custody. After deliberating for less than one day, 12 jurors said Smith interfered with Alfred Henderson's housing rights and lied to a federal investigator.

In addition to the cross-burning threat, witnesses said Smith threatened to hang Henderson from a tree, sexually assault Henderson's wife and throw a Molotov cocktail into the couple's home.

Henderson, who moved from Modesto after Smith was indicted, said he was relieved by the verdict.

"My wife is terrified of that man," he said.

The two men engaged in a war of words on the citizens band radio, with Smith, 25, who was known as "Opie 1," launching into a tirade whenever Henderson, 52, who was known as "Slave Driver," began broadcasting.

Things escalated when Smith brought six of his buddies to Henderson's former home on Estep Drive on Oct. 28, 2005. That incident brought the Modesto police to the scene and landed Smith in jail two days later, but the Stanislaus County district attorney's office declined to prosecute.

Smith went back on the radio and bragged that he could not be stopped, Henderson said, but the FBI pursued the matter, and federal prosecutors persuaded a grand jury to indict him in August.

Hate crimes are rare, but they can carry heavy penalties. Since 2001, federal authorities have charged 184 people with bias- motivated crimes nationwide. A prosecutor said he will ask for no less than five years when Smith is sentenced July 25 because Smith's actions incited violence.

"Our argument was that it crossed into criminal activity when Smith and his friends went to Henderson's house on Oct. 28," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa said. "It's not just words. It was conduct."

Assistant Federal Defender Marc C. Ament, who represented Smith, could not be reached for comment.

Prior conduct taken into account

Few offenders receive the maximum punishment. For example: A Lassen County man who burned a cross on a church lawn as a warning to a black priest last year was sentenced to two years in prison.

Smith's prior conduct could count against him when a judge hands down a punishment: He was convicted of grand theft in 2003 and he lied to police about his involvement in a racially motivated shooting in 2005.

According to court records, Smith shouted, "Get out of here, n-----," when a black man pulled into a Modesto parking lot. The black man left, but returned and discharged a firearm, prompting a criminal case in which Smith was a witness against the man.

Smith did not take the witness stand at his trial, but he did tes- tify before the grand jury that said he must stand trial for taunting Henderson. In that proceeding, Smith acknowledged an antagonistic relationship with Henderson, but he insisted that his CB radio chatter was just banter.

According to a transcript, Smith stressed the fact that he did not make good on any alleged threat, but also acknowledged that he moved into a home a block from the Hendersons because he wanted to use high- powered radio equipment to drown out Henderson.

In legal papers, authorities said Smith harassed Henderson from June 1, 2005, to May 24, 2007.

Henderson said he will be glad to put the whole ordeal behind him, adding that he has no comment on the punishment Smith should receive. He hopes the verdict sends a message to anyone who thinks hateful speech is just a lark.

"Nobody is above the law," Henderson said.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at or 578-2338.