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Oswalt gets 40 days in hate crime case

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Oswalt Trial 01 (copy)

Andrew Oswalt listens to the prosecution at the start of his trial in November.

Andrew Oswalt was sentenced Wednesday in Benton County Circuit Court to 40 days in jail and three years of probation for placing racist bumper stickers on cars belonging to members of a social justice group.

Judge David Connell ordered Oswalt to serve 30 days for first-degree intimidation, which is classified as a hate crime, and 10 days for criminal mischief.

Oswalt, an Oregon State University doctoral student in chemistry, was taken into custody immediately after the hearing Wednesday morning. His attorney during the trial, Nicolas Ortiz, said Oswalt will appeal, but another attorney will handle the case.

The charges stemmed from a June 2017 incident in which Oswalt and a companion attached stickers containing offensive racial slurs to two cars outside a meeting of the group Showing Up for Racial Justice at the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op in south Corvallis.

In a bench trial in late November, Connell found Oswalt guilty of three felony first-degree intimidation charges and two third-degree criminal mischief charges.

During sentencing, two of the intimidation charges and one of the criminal mischief charges were merged into the one intimidation charge. Chief Deputy District Attorney Ryan Joslin said this was because each of the intimidation charges represented the same criminal act, just a different theory of which protected category Oswalt intended to discriminate against with the act. One of the criminal mischief charges was also merged into that charge because it was a lesser charge for the same criminal act.

Susan Breckenridge, whose car was targeted while she was at the meeting, spoke during the sentencing, to ask that Oswalt’s sentence include community service that would put him into contact with minorities, so he could have exposure that would help him overcome his racism.

“My personal belief is racism is based on ignorance,” she said.

Oswalt’s sentence did not include community service.

Ortiz asked that Oswalt not be given jail time because Oswalt’s work in the chemistry department would be impacted by his absence, which could cost the university money.

Chris Knutson, one of Oswalt’s co-workers in the department, spoke on Oswalt’s behalf, saying while his own beliefs about racism were similar to Breckenridge’s, he thought Oswalt’s views represented a tragedy in how he was socialized.

“Prison is not a place he will be positively socialized,” he said.

Knutson said Oswalt’s actions already had consequences  in the opportunities that are now closed to him:

“At this point, Andrew’s chances of employment in the field he has dedicated his life to is virtually none.”

Oswalt himself spoke at the hearing, saying his intent is to leave Corvallis and Benton County as soon as possible, which would have been in April if he had avoided jail time. He also offered to volunteer for organizations like the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District, the university or local schools instead of serving jail time.

He also said jail time should be reserved for people who are dangerous.

“You may be offended by my beliefs, but I am not a danger to the community,” he said.

Connell said Oswalt’s actions were essentially trying to sow seeds of hate in the community.

“What you did was really horrible and I’m not sure you get this,” he said.

Connell added that he hoped someday Oswalt is able to leave hate behind.

“That will be up to you,” he said.

 

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Andrew Oswalt, a former Oregon State University student who was convicted of a felony hate crime late last year for pasting racist bumper stic…

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