PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced today that a Barrington man was sentenced today in 6th Division District Court to 18 months of probation, community service, and racial sensitivity training after being found guilty last week of one count each of simple assault and disorderly conduct, stemming from an altercation with his next-door neighbor in Barrington on August 3, 2020.
At today's hearing before District Court Judge Stephen M. Isherwood, the court sentenced Richard Gordon (age 71) to one year of probation on the count of simple assault and six months of probation on the disorderly conduct count, to be served consecutively.
The court also issued a no-contact order between Gordon and his neighbors for 18 months. Additionally, Gordon was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and complete non-violence training that incorporates an anti-racism component. Gordon must also serve 40 hours of community service.
On August 11, 2020, the State filed a sentencing enhancement in this case, pursuant to Rhode Island's Hate Crimes Sentencing Act. Today, the court did not find that the sentencing enhancement should be applied. During the hearing, the court acknowledged community impact statements filed in support of applying the sentencing enhancement submitted by the Anti-Defamation League, New England; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Providence Branch; and Black Lives Matter, Rhode Island.
"I am grateful that we were able to obtain some measure of justice for Mr. Pahlavi and his wife, Dr. Ali, through our prosecution of this case," said Attorney General Neronha. "The defendant claimed at trial that he was the victim in this case. The Court was correct to reject that, and defendant's conviction after trial was plainly warranted. Defendant's conduct was reprehensible, and, as the Court found, so were his words.
"Although we are disappointed that the Court did not impose an enhanced sentence under the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act, I respect the Court's decision," continued Attorney General Neronha. "It has been the position of this Office that, as is the case in other states with similar laws, criminal misconduct that is motivated, at least in part, by racial or other animus subjects a defendant to this enhancement.
"Criminal misconduct that is motivated in any way by bigotry merits the strongest possible response," continued Attorney General Neronha. "I am grateful to Mr. Pahlavi and Dr. Ali for having the courage to take a stand for what is right, and to the Barrington Police Department for their partnership in this case."
At trial, the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that on August 3, 2020, Gordon assaulted his next-door neighbor once the neighbor replaced a surveyor's stake in Gordon's front yard.
On that day, Gordon exited his house to confront his neighbor. The victim was standing in the street, which divides the two properties. During the argument, Gordon yelled racial slurs at his neighbor. He then escalated the encounter into a physical assault with his neighbor, Bahram Pahlavi.
A portion of the incident was captured on cell phone video and was widely circulated on social media platforms following the incident.
Lieutenant Josh Birrell of the Barrington Police Department led the investigation into the case. Assistant Attorney General John Moreira and Special Assistant Attorney General Keith Hoffmann prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.
Rhode Island's Hate Crimes Sentencing Act
In Rhode Island, there is no free-standing hate crime; rather, a defendant must first be convicted of a criminal offense.
If a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense, there is a separate sentencing hearing at which the State must prove that the criminal offense was motivated by "the actor's hatred or animus toward the actual or perceived disability, religion, color, race, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, or gender of that person." If the court determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal offense was so motivated, the penalty for the criminal offense can be increased pursuant to the Rhode Island Hate Crimes Sentencing Act.