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State v. J.A.

December 19, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
J.A., APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Whatcom County. Docket No: 94-8-00874-7. Date filed: 09/15/95. Judge signing: Hon. David S. Nichols.

PER CURIAM. J.A. appeals his juvenile court conviction for malicious harassment in violation of RCW 9A.36.080(1)(c). He contends there is insufficient evidence to uphold the court's Disposition or, alternatively, that the court found him guilty of an uncharged alternative means of committing the crime. We conclude that the evidence of J.A.'s unprovoked racial remarks to the victim, Jagbir Bhangav, is sufficient to establish that the harassment was based on Bhangav's race. We also find J.A.'s second argument without merit and affirm.

FACTS

J.A. was charged with malicious harassment by "[threatening] a specific person . . . and places that person, . . . in reasonable fear of harm to person or property." RCW 9A.36.080(1)(c). The following evidence was presented at the fact-finding hearing before Commissioner Frank Morrow.

Jagbir Bhangav, a student at Bellingham High School, testified that earlier in the day, J.A.'s brother, Jerrod Arnett had yelled obscenities at him in the school hallway. According to Jagbir, Jerrod and J.A. "always scream stuff to me in the halls, but on that day there was Jerrod." After school, Jerrod, J.A., and another friend approached Jagbir in the school parking lot. J.A. demanded that Jagbir apologize to Jerrod. Jagbir refused. Jagbir testified that J.A. then said "you fucking East Indians, why you came here, go back to your country, you . . . from poor country, what you think India is?"

J.A. asked Jagbir if he wanted to fight. Jagbir said "no". J.A. then told Jerrod to hit Jagbir. Jerrod repeatedly punched Jagbir in the head until he was stopped by an adult. As Jagbir was driving out of the parking lot, the Arnetts threw a stone at the car. When asked why the Arnetts wanted to fight him, Jagbir said "I never even, uh, I talked him, I never did anything wrong. [Jerrod] was kind of my friend in middle school. We ride the same bus, but I don't know why they have fights with me." One week later, Jagbir's car was broken into and his tires slashed.

J.A. testified Jagbir was the aggressor and denied stating any racial remarks. The court found J.A.'s testimony unbelievable and found him guilty as charged. The court orally ruled:

J.A. addressed racial or ethnic slurs and insults on Mr. Bhangav, which included calling him a fucking Indian, and telling Mr. Bhangav to go back to his country. Both J.A. and Jerrod Arnett challenged Jagbir Bhangav to fight. . . I find that J.A.'s conduct was intended to and did harass and threaten Jagbir Bhangav because of his race and/or national origin, and that it further did, without lawful authority.

J.A. moved to revise the commissioner's ruling. The superior court affirmed. It found that the "altercation was racially motivated" and that J.A. committed malicious harassment "either by threats of inflicting harm on another, as evidenced by what actually happened and the repeated invitations to fight, or by abetting or encouraging another (Jarrod) to get involved on his behalf."

DECISION

RCW 9A.36.080(1)(c) provides in part:

(1) A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim's race . . .:

(a) Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;

(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. . . .

The court found J.A. guilty of violating subsection (c). He contends there is insufficient evidence to uphold his Disposition under the statute because the State failed to prove that his encounter with Jagbir was racially motivated. He claims that the evidence shows that he confronted Jagbir because he wanted ...


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