BARRINGTON, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's attorney general has determined that a Barrington man facing an assault charge after being caught on video yelling racial slurs at his neighbor can face a stiffer sentence under the state's hate crimes law if convicted.
Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a legal brief filed Tuesday that 71-year-old Richard Gordon showed “hatred or animus toward the actual or perceived religion, color, race, national origin, or ancestry” against his neighbor, Bahram Pahlavi.
Gordon’s lawyer Matthew Dawson said his client acknowledges he used “racially charged language” that was inappropriate and unacceptable, but maintains there was no “racial animus” in the property dispute between neighbors.
Dawson said his client also “deeply regrets” the distress that “his poor choice of language” caused Pahlavi and his family.
Anthony DeSisto, Pahlavi's lawyer, said Gordon hasn't reached out to the family to apologize and declined to comment on the statement.
“My clients are working people,” he said. “This is not something that normally happens to them so they're cooperating fully with authorities.”
Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, meanwhile, staged a rally Tuesday afternoon in front of Gordon’s home.
In a widely shared Facebook post of the Aug. 3 incident, Gordon’s neighbor, Iman Ali Pahlavi, said her husband had been attacked and called the “N word” and other racial slurs while replacing a property marker. The family is of Middle Eastern descent.
She says her husband is the one heard on the video saying “get off, get off” and that’s “assault.”
Gordon maintains Bahram Pahlavi struck him with a hammer prior to the videotaped portion, and that his injuries required medical attention, according to Dawson.
Barrington police charged Gordon with simple assault and disorderly conduct over the weekend after determining he was the “primary aggressor” in the dispute.
Town officials also denounced the behavior as “abhorrent," and residents on Sunday rallied in front of Barrington Town Hall calling for hate crime charges to be brought in the case.