At the Aug. 7 hearing for Randall Leon Thompson in Pima County Justice Court, the person accused of leaving three death threats against me in my university voice mail was placed under supervised probation for a year but was spared jail time. 

The judge said he found Thompson's behavior disgusting and was inclined to throw him in jail, if I strongly objected to the deal negotiated by the attorneys. 

For a moment, I had the power to send Mr. Thompson to jail. I had good reason to do so: The threats he sent in May 2011 were vicious and laced with racial venom. His tirades were in response to my purported role in defending TUSD's Mexican American Studies (MAS) department, which has since been dismantled as a result of the district complying with the anti-Ethnic Studies law, HB 2281.

However, I don't consider Mr. Thompson to be the intellectual author of those threats.

True, he vocalized them, but he, like many in this state, have been manipulated, often by the state's top politicians and others who exploit racial or cultural divisions within society. (For an insight into hate from above, see stories about former state Sen. President Russell Pearce's recently revealed emails, along with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's communiqués.) 

That daily spewing of hatred toward Mexicans and Mexican culture, disguised as "a war against 'illegals,' " is the definition of dehumanization.

They do this while claiming that they are not aiming their disdain at actual people, but rather simply at "lawbreakers." (The MAS struggle has nothing to do with migration, illegal or otherwise.)

That's not to negate that Mr. Thompson is a conscious adult and as such, he needs to be held responsible for his actions. Seeing him in the courtroom, it was difficult to see him as the same man who threatened to use a .357 Magnum against me and who also threatened to war against Mexicans.

Despite all his threats, he pleaded guilty but to one misdemeanor count of using a telephone to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass. 

The reason I did not "strongly object" to this deal is that I was unclear why Mr. Thompson was not facing felonies. 

At an earlier hearing, I had asked the court that question, and when I was permitted to address the court Aug. 7, I also asked why no hate-crime charges were filed. The judge said it was a good question and advised that I ask the region's U.S. attorney. 

I do plan to do this, as these threats appear to come under the U.S. Justice Department definition of a hate crime: "Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin. … The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims."

Hate crimes are designed to terrorize communities. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the intellectual author of HB 2281, has said he believes the threats to be hate crimes. 

True justice can only come about when the intellectual authors of this hate also have their date in court. Yet, in Arizona, how do you prosecute that hate when it appears to come from the very top? My suggestion: one perpetrator at a time.

 

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com