SALT LAKE CITY — A former Draper man being sentenced for a federal hate crime unleashed a racist diatribe in U.S. District Court on Thursday, saying African-Americans are "pimps" and "drug dealers."
"I've been around a lot of blacks. I just don't want to associate with them anymore," Mark Olic Porter told Judge Dee Benson. "I don't want to live around them because they're dangerous people."
After Porter finished his tirade, which included references to Bill Cosby and to his own sister marrying a black man in the '70s, Benson called him a racist. He said Porter's openly racist views are "ugly, despicable and distasteful."
Porter's remarks, however, didn't factor into the sentence Benson imposed on him after a jury last week convicted the 59-year-old man of yelling racial slurs at a black man's young son and then shocking the father, Mike Waldvogel, with a stun cane last November.
"He's entitled to have those views. It's not against the law to be a racist. It is against the law to act on those racist views," the judge said.
Benson sentenced Porter to nine months in prison, much lower than prosecutors argued for and NAACP Utah chapter President Jeanetta Williams expected. Porter, who has been held in the Weber County Jail since last fall, will get credit for time served and be released as early as next month. He also will serve a one-year probation.
The judge said he wasn't trying to be lenient, but the crime came down to an altercation between two men.
Benson said the "most disgusting" part of the incident was Porter using the n-word toward the boy.
Porter shouted the slur at the 7-year-old boy as he rode on a scooter in a common area at a Draper apartment complex last fall. After he told the child to "get out of here," he knocked Waldvogel to the ground with a stun cane when the father confronted him about yelling at his son. Porter then referred to Waldvogel and his son using a racial slur and told them both to "get out of here."
Porter said he thought the man was going to take a swing at him, so he held out the "zap cane" — which he said he bought because it was advertised to ward off "thugs" and "animals" — and the man grabbed it.
"I never hit him," he said.
Prior to the incident, Porter told an employee and maintenance staff at the apartment complex that he did not want to live near any blacks. He also told another neighbor that he thought that blacks needed to be "exterminated," according to testimony during the trial.
Rose Gibson, a Department of Justice lawyer with the Civil Rights Division's criminal section, argued that Porter should serve nearly four years in prison. His use of the stun can — a stick with electrified metal bars — amounted to aggravated assault, she said.
Also, she said the racial slur left the boy scared.
"The incident was serious for the family. It was serious for the community," Gibson said.
Williams, who attended the hearing, said Porter's comments in the courtroom were offensive and that he wasn't remorseful or apologetic.
"His ranting will continue on," she said. "I think that we have to be more careful about what people say and how they say it, and words do hurt."
Williams said a nine-month sentence "was not what I was looking for at all," and Benson ignoring prosecutors' recommendation was "very disheartening." She said the sentence doesn't send a clear enough message that hate crimes won't be tolerated in Utah.
In court, Porter said the Bill Cosby "thing" bothered him. "I could always sense something about that guy," he said. He also said his sister marrying a black man "destroyed" his family.
"I just don't want to be around them. They've ruined so many people's lives," he said.
Dave Backman, the U.S. Attorney's Office criminal chief in Utah, said Porter hasn't learned a thing.
"It was painful to sit there through the sentencing and hear what he had to say. He is obviously a racist," he said, adding authorities worry there could be another confrontation that could turn violent.
"It was clear in court he is not a changed person from this jury verdict. I'm not sure his sentence would change that," Backman said. "But we're encouraged he won't be living here in Utah, at least."
Assault charges filed against Porter in state court last year were dismissed due to the federal prosecution. He was living in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, when he was arrested. He plans to return there after his release.
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