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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Take Precaution: Wear Jeans in Utah

On Monday 21-year-old Joseph Patrick Romero pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated assault. His crime: On January 22nd in Sandy, Utah, Mr. Romero purposefully ran his car into Chris Palomarez, a young man who happened to be wearing black pants, a white shirt, and a name badge. The victim escaped with minor injuries.

What's interesting about this case is the way it was reported when it first happened. At the time of the assault Mr. Palomarez was with a co-worker; both young men were dressed neatly for their jobs at Radio Shack. Apparently this bit of information generated speculation. From a story in Deseret Morning News:
Was Sandy attack hate-motivated?
Victims may have been mistaken for missionaries
By Pat Reavy
Deseret Morning News

SANDY — A weekend attack in which a man was beaten with brass knuckles and then hit by a car appears prompted by the assailants' belief he and his friend were Mormon missionaries.

To be fair, Mr. Palomarez, who is not LDS, said someone shouted, "Go back to church you [expletive] Mormons!" Perhaps this accusation fueled the idea that the attack was a hate crime. But as it turns out, it was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill fight between five young men that got out of hand.

Mr. Romero was contrite at his trial, according to Tuesday's Deseret Morning News:
Romero was sentenced to a year in jail, but jail time was suspended and he was put on probation. He also must pay part of the victim's medical costs and a fine totaling about $1,800, complete an anger management course, do 50 hours of community service and have no contact with the victim. He has written a letter of apology to the victim, and the prosecutor plans to forward it.

"I am really sorry," Romero told the judge. "I wish I had just driven away."

Thank goodness there was no serious injury to Mr. Palomarez. But I wonder why he played along with the hate crime accusations when he knew better.

And I wonder why Deseret Morning News jumped to the conclusion that these young men had been attacked just because they were dressed like Mormon missionaries. Do the people of Sandy, Utah think Mormon missionaries are the only young men who wear white shirts and black pants? Do they think a young man dressed neatly could not possibly be guilty of any act of provocation?

On the KSL News web site Tuesday it was reported:
Attempted Assault Case Was Not a Hate Crime
(KSL News) -- Police feared it was a hate crime aimed at missionaries serving for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But now it seems that wasn't the case.

The KSL report said police feared Mr. Romero's assault was a hate crime, but the Deseret Morning News article published almost four months ago said that, though investigators screened it as a possible hate crime, there was not enough evidence to support such a charge. So why did the Deseret Morning News even suggest the hate crime angle?

I think this whole incident demonstrates that, unfortunately, a persecution mentality is alive and well among Latter-day Saints. Mr. Romero acted stupidly and could have really hurt someone, but he was not attacking the LDS Church or Church members.

In fact, Mr. Romero is himself a Mormon.

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