Indictment is reminder of pervasive anti-Latino sentiment

Feb. 8, 2010

Contact: John Garcia (212)739-7513

The federal grand jury indictment of a Trenton, NJ man for making threats against the staff at LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other Latino organizations serves as a reminder of the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment that has pervaded our society.

The indictment charges Vincent Johnson with five counts of transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce and four counts of using a computer service to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, commonly known as cyberstalking, each of which carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Johnson is also charged with five counts of interfering with the exercise of civil rights, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Between 2006 and 2008, Johnson sent numerous emails to LatinoJustice PRLDEF that included hateful remarks about Latinos, and contained threats to injure and kill staff members.

“These emails were a deep cause of concern for our staff, and we are pleased that the Department of Justice treated this matter with the seriousness and priority that we think it deserved,” LatinoJustice PRLDEF President and General Counsel Cesar Perales said. “This sentiment against Latinos is not unusual and this indictment serves as a reminder of that.”

The 14-count indictment against Johnson, returned by the grand jury on Feb. 4, 2010, alleges that between November 2006 and February 2009, Johnson, using the internet username “Devilfish579”, repeatedly sent threatening e-mail communications to employees of LatinoJustice PRLDEF; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the National Council of La Raza; the League of United Latin American Citizens; and the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

The indictment further alleges that Johnson intended to place the victims in fear of bodily injury and that Johnson acted because the victims were aiding and encouraging persons of Latino descent to participate without discrimination in activities provided by the federal and state governments.

Johnson began his email campaign at the same time that LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other groups filed a suit to stop the city of Hazleton, PA from enacting an anti-immigration ordinance. City officials offered many unproven assumptions about the effects of immigrants living in Hazleton.

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