South Harrison Township's first black mayor, who received death threats laced with racial epithets during his tenure, said yesterday that he was glad to learn a white supremacist who he said harassed him last year was convicted of hate crimes over the weekend.
A Roanoke, Va., jury on Friday found William White, who headed a neo-Nazi organization and Web site, guilty of four of seven hate crimes after a nearly two-week trial.
Though White was acquitted in U.S. District Court of threatening New Jersey's Charles Tyson via telephone and e-mail, Tyson said he was pleased with the verdict.
"At least he got convicted," Tyson said. "This guy was a terrorist, and these kind of people should be put in jail."
White faces up to 35 years in federal prison, according to the Roanoke Times.
Tyson was among numerous witnesses, who included a civil-rights lawyer from Canada, a nationally syndicated news columnist from Maryland, a University of Delaware administrator, and a bank employee from Missouri. Several testified that White called or e-mailed them after hate crimes against them made the news.
White's defense was that the First Amendment protected his speech. Tyson said he thinks the jury acquitted in the cases in which White did not directly threaten to kill someone.
According to Tyson, in a phone call shortly before midnight March 1, 2008, and in a subsequent e-mail, White warned Tyson against ruling "over white people" and also said that he knew where Tyson lived. But, Tyson said, White stopped short of saying he would come after him.
During his mayoral tenure between 2007 and 2008, other callers threatened to kill him, Tyson said, and his campaign signs were spray-painted with KKK and racial epithets. No arrests have been made in those cases.
Tyson stepped down as mayor in January, citing family concerns over the racially motivated incidents. He stayed on as a committeeman in the rural Gloucester County community until last month, when he resigned, saying he was frustrated with the lack of arrests in the other incidents and with bitter politics.
Yesterday, he said the verdict gave him a lift. "This will send a message that this won't be tolerated," he said. "We've had enough of this hate-mongering."