Frederick Harmes-Sorrell never knew how much his hateful words and conduct would impact the Muslim community.
“His actions and his choices were frankly very ugly and vile,” Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney BJ Park said on August 3, 2018 at Harmes-Sorrell’s restorative justice sentencing before Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Souede.
On May 29, 2017, Alekzandr Wray drove his wife Jaminah Shannon to a medical appointment in Northeast Portland.
Ms. Shannon was wearing a Niqab.
“Take the (expletive) burka off,” Harmes-Sorrell yelled at Ms. Shannon from his driver side window.
He continued by calling the couple a “terrorist” and said “go back to your own (expletive) country!”
“He had that backwards,” DDA Park told the Court at sentencing. “Because this is America, Ms. Shannon, or whomever, can wear whatever they choose, whether it’s a hijab, burka, niqab or any of those things because the foundations of this country allow for that.”
The insults frightened Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon. They tried to slow down and let Harmes-Sorrell pass their vehicle, but he responded by also slowing down, keeping pace with them and causing further alarm.
Ms. Shannon called 9-1-1 as Sorrell continued to yell at the couple for several blocks while occasionally swerving his vehicle toward theirs. Ms. Shannon reported she feared Sorrell would hit them or run them off the road. At a stoplight, Sorrell dangled his body from his window and used both hands to mimic, in a very demonstrative fashion, shooting a gun at Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon.
Sorrell “shot” multiple times and then “disappeared” back into his car. At that point, Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon feared he could be accessing a real firearm and worried that he would shoot them given his extremely charged and threatening behavior.
A Multnomah County grand jury indicted Harmes-Sorrell with three counts of intimidation in the second degree, which is one of Oregon’s two hate crime laws.
On the day his trial was supposed to start, Harmes-Sorrell pleaded no contest to two counts of intimidation in the second degree. Ms. Shannon spoke to the court that day and described the impact Harmes-Sorrell’s actions had on her, her family and the entire Muslim community. She described being terrified.
“I wasn’t in a position where I felt safe leaving my home for the next couple of days after that,” she said. “I think (his) behavior was completely unacceptable. It’s not acceptable for anyone to engage in that kind of behavior towards any group of people for whatever reason.”
Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon demanded accountability. They wanted Harmes-Sorrell to take sincere action, participate in training and to have real life interactions with the Muslim community.
“My hope is that Mr. Harmes will take full accountability and try to come to some peace with himself and make amends with my family and the Muslim community,” Ms. Shannon said at the change of plea hearing.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office worked closely with Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon, the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and the Council on American–Islamic Relations to recommend a sentence that would emphasize repairing the harm caused by Harmes-Sorrell’s criminal behavior.
“Here in Multnomah County, we want to have not just justice but restorative justice, where all parties, including victims, defendant, and society are restored and healed,” DDA Park said.
DDA Park presented Judge Souede with a sentence that the District Attorney’s Office believes achieves those goals.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this case,” Judge Souede said as he considered the sentence recommendation. “The crimes that you’ve committed – the laws you violated – are not out on the edge, they’re not the hard stuff. They are the basic minimum expectations that we demand of one another for how we’re going to treat one another.”
Judge Souede said Harmes-Sorrell failed to provide even the slightest level of fairness and tolerance when he came upon Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon.
“You didn’t err in some sort of grey area. …You failed to behave in accordance with the absolute minimum requirements that we as a community have decided we are going to demand from one another,” Judge Souede said at sentencing. “Instead, you intimidated (the victims) based on your perceived perception of their race and religion and that’s the illegal part.”
Judge Souede recognized the profound damage that was done to Mr. Wray and Ms. Shannon and the entire Muslim community. He credited the District Attorney’s Office with coming up with a restorative justice-based sentence.
“I think this case offers a real opportunity for restorative justice,” he said. “It has the opportunity to put us in a better place than when we were even before you committed this crime.”
For his part, Harmes-Sorrell told the court when this incident happened, he had “a lot of turmoil” going on in his life.
“I took an opportunity to lash out and vent,” he said. “It was very inappropriate. … My ignorance is what caused me to espouse things that shouldn’t have been said. These folks were going about their business. … I cannot express my sorrow and regret enough.”
Judge Souede followed the sentence proposed by the State, which had also been endorsed by Harmes-Sorrell’s defense attorney.
- Three years of probation;
- A $3,652.99 compensatory fine with $2,000 suspended pending successful completion of probation;
- $2,000 of that fine will be suspended pending successful completion of probation;
- The other $1,652.99 is to go to the Abu-Bakar Islamic Center;
- In September 2017, someone committed a hate crime at the mosque by spray painting the word “ISIS” on the wall;
- A community member purchased a video camera system;
- Sorrell has agreed to pay that man back;
- In exchange for Sorrell’s agreement to pay the $1,652.99 fine to the mosque, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office did not seek a jail sentence up front;
- The DA’s Office did, however, ask that if Sorrell violate, or not complete his probation, he receive 45 days jail and be required to pay the additional $2,000;
- 100 hours of community service that must benefit the Muslim community;
- This will be organized by Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR);
- Sorrell will have to have a meaningful and productive meeting with the Muslim community, which will be organized by CAIR;
- No contact with the victims;
- No need to write an apology letter since he already apologized in April at the change of plea hearing.
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director