Alleged White Supremacists Beat Black Man, But DA Doesn't File Hate Crime Charge

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Charles Cannon won't face hate-crime charges.

In a crime that hearkened back to the skinhead days of the early '90s, or modern-day Dallas, four white men remain behind bars today charged with assaulting a black man at a downtown bus stop early Sunday morning. Police want the incident classed as a hate crime, but the Harris County District Attorney's office has been reluctant to designate it as such.

The DA's office has issued a statement on the matter, which we have after the jump...

Arrested were 40-year-old Michael Joe McLaughlin and 32-year-old Brian Kerstetter, both of Cypress; 48-year-old homeless man Joseph Staggs; and 25-year-old Charles Allen Cannon of the Cloverleaf neighborhood, the closest thing modern-day Houston proper has to a white ghetto.

Police told Channel 26's Isiah Carey that the men claimed to be white supremacists, and police have said that they are members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. Carey reported that they attacked the man because he was black. The victim was hospitalized after the attack.

Kerstetter and Cannon publicly claim to be "Peckerwoods" on Facebook, where they are friends. In prison slang, a Peckerwood is someone at least loosely affiliated with a white prison gang.

Kerstetter and McLaughlin have had ample opportunity to make such connections. Kerstetter's criminal history dates back to a 1997 felony burglary conviction. Since then, he's been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence twice and also three more felonies, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and, just last year, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

McLaughlin's rap sheet dates back to a DWI he got at the age of 19 in 1989. Since then he's been convicted of auto theft, felony burglary of a vehicle, and robbery-bodily injury, for which he was sentenced to 13 years in TDC.

At the time of the incident, Cannon was freshly released from a 30-day stay in Harris County Jail after being convicted of assault after a nasty incident this March. According to a police report, Cannon and his wife Maria Guadalupe Cannon and two friends randomly assaulted a couple who were enjoying a sunny afternoon on the banks of the San Jacinto River. For kicking a man who was wrestling a friend of his after that friend had picked a fight, Cannon was sentenced to a month in jail. Maria Cannon, all 4'9" and 90 pounds of her, is alleged to have taken a cellphone from a woman at gunpoint in the same incident and remains behind bars awaiting her day in court.

Perhaps the fact that Maria Cannon is Hispanic is one of the complicating factors in this case. Neither Kerstetter -- who also once lived with a Hispanic woman (whom he is alleged to have beaten) -- nor Cannon seem to have any qualms about crossing the brown-white divide. Both also have numerous Hispanic friends, and when Cannon assaulted the couple on the San Jacinto River, two of his accomplices were Latinos.

On the other hand, neither Kerstetter nor Cannon nor anyone else in their circle of friends seem to be friendly with any black people.

Or perhaps it's a case of once-bitten twice shy for the DA's office. In September 2009, in their first attempt at one of these cases, a grand jury declined the DA's request to stack a hate crime enhancement on three white men accused of attacking a black ice cream vendor in northwest Harris County while calling him a "nigger." In the end, one of those men walked free of any charges, a second was convicted of criminal mischief and received probation, and a third was sentenced to a year in Harris County Jail for simple assault.

UPDATE August 18: The DA's office has released this statement in regards to this case:

UPDATE: "Hate crime" enhancement decisions are made after a criminal charge is filed. After a careful assessment of the facts and the evidence, the trial prosecutor determines if bias or prejudice can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the defense is notified and the judge or jury decides whether or not the motive is proven.

The law specifies which offenses can be enhanced with hate crime allegations. First degree felonies cannot be so enhanced. For class A misdemeanors, the maximum punishment does not change with this finding, but the minimum jail time can be increased to 180 days if the jury makes a finding of bias or prejudice.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office takes all crimes of this nature seriously, and they are carefully scrutinized to determine if the offense is one where an affirmative finding of this nature should be sought.

Since these guys are all facing class A misdemeanor assault charges, the most they can receive on conviction is a year in the county jail. Should a jury conclude the crime was hate-based, the minimum punishment would be six months.

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fdup11
fdup11

ok do any of you people that write and publish this crap do any investigation on the subject that your writing about # 1 peckerwood is not racist it means your proud to be white #2 the couple that was supposedly attacked at random were drunk as hell just like everybody else charles cannon has an aunt that he is extremely close to thats black and white his 3 nieces and nephew are also black white mix that he loves very much.so when you start printing this trash talk get your facts together and really think about what you print and how it effects some people.

Ronbo
Ronbo

Why does it always take a gang of so called "Supremacists" to beat up one person they consider inferior?  You'd think that one "Supremacist" could take on one or more minority persons single handed!  Isn't that the definition of Supreme?  Not exactly making a case for white power.

fdup11
fdup11

i am so sick of hearing about racism from what i can tell on here from reading all this crap is theres racism coming from the african american community its okay to be in the black panthers but when you are proud to be white you are a racist so what are you black panthers. you have the naacp but if the white community had something similar they would be sued for being a racist and what about united negro college fund if the white community had this there again lawsuit hmmm

Bernie Maq
Bernie Maq

Because you all have degraded, raped and sucked dry 75% of the world through violence and barbarism. You have the Republican party, various Country Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Ku Klux Klan, your skin, history that you have written to make yourself look like kings, various media outlets, and other things that I cannot come up with. Racism is getting old. But it continues to be rehashed by white people. NAACP and other political black groups were formed to fight the oppressive behavior of WHITE PEOPLE. We loved our community (at the time) so much that we didn't want our people to be taken advantage of. It is always black people (Hispanics as of late)  who are continuously disenfranchised and degraded regularly by all due to  the WHITE SUPREMACIST SOCIETY WE LIVE IN.White men and women are continuously being reaffirmed while others are almost always being put down. It isn't keeping me from from getting educated (we've been down this road and conquered it Praise God).

fdup11
fdup11

you know what i can tell you are a racist and everything you basically spouted is a bunch of bs yall need to quit boo hooing about something that has long been past and get on with your life racism comes from everywhere not just white people mr x and i use the term mr loosely is nothing but a criminal and a lazy thug oh yea and a racist even against his own people

tearcollector
tearcollector

I've met plenty of people that considered themselves to be black haters. They seemed to have no problem with any other race but that one. Being married to a Hispanic means absolutely nothing. It shouldn't have taken a write up for the DA to respond. Last time I checked, I was paying my taxes for a reason.

Gator
Gator

I heard that the assault occurred after the victim was allegedly "looking at" Cannon "funny".You can't expect anyone to let that go. People who look at me funny really piss me off. They're asking for it, and it really doesn't matter what color they are.As for criminals claiming to be white supremacists, Aryan Brotherhood, Peckerwoods, etc.When you go to jail, they classify you. If you are a "racist" you are put into a segregated area. If you do not belong to a hate group, you go into general population. This can be very dangerous, as there are a number of gangs that will beat you up and take away your stuff in general population. So criminals have learned to let the officers know when they are asked at booking that yes, as a matter of fact they do belong to the Klan, AB, or at least that they listen to Michael Berry on the radio every day. That way, they get to do their time with a bunch of other white guys. It's a common practice.I'm not saying these dudes aren't racists. I'm just pointing out that the victim might have been looking at them funny. If he was, it was a sirius misteak.

Iluvrazor
Iluvrazor

Hate crime is a hate crime you don't have to be black or white. Just because a person doesn't look like you , you would want to hurt them. Shame on anyone that would intentionally try to hurt,kill anyone.

Texas Justice
Texas Justice

These clowns don't belong to the Aryan Brotherhood.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

According to an old court document I saw personally, at least one of them does.

Geezy
Geezy

"Perhaps the fact that Maria Cannon is Hispanic is one of the complicating factors in this case."

I thought the same. Guadalupe isn't just a standard hispanic name, it's deeply sacred and religious. So, you can act like a racist, affiliate with them and commit crimes all in the same name but use the whole minority affiliation as a cop out? Interesting take DA, and a crock of shit.

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