DA won't file hate crime charge against Shasta Lake man

Date of Alert: 
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DA won't file hate crime charge against Shasta Lake man

The Shasta County district attorney's office won't prosecute a Shasta Lake man who was suspected of attacking an 18-year-old Native American while yelling racial slurs at him last month, a decision his mother said stems from bigotry.

Despite requests from the teen's family members that Charles Petrisevac, 36, be prosecuted with a hate crime, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kafel said Wednesday that won't happen.

She said the episode did not legally rise to the hate crime level because, based on witness statements obtained during an investigation, it did not appear that race was the motivating factor.

"There has to be specific intent," she said.

In addition, she said, assault charges won't be filed against Petrisevac because it was the teen, Sage Frank, who made "first contact," she said.

"He pushed him first," she said, adding that the teen also threw a skateboard at him.

April Carmelo, 45, the teen's mother, said the decision against filing a hate crime and other charges is racially motivated.

"If (the) roles were reversed, and I was out wielding a gun, threatening to kill people with a gun, assaulting people, I would have been in jail," said Carmelo, an American Indian. "The next day, Petrisevac was running down the street."

Carmelo said Shasta County Sheriff's investigators never contacted her after taking their statements that night and that their investigation wasn't complete.

"I think the lack of communication between the sheriff and the DA shows a lack of investigation," she said.

Kafel, who acknowledged that "horrible" insults were spewed by Petrisevac, said the incident erupted as the teenager was skateboarding outside his home with his two cousins on the night of Aug. 23.

Frank had apparently yelled a question at one of his cousins as Petrisevac was walking nearby, Kafel said.

Petrisevac, who believed Frank was yelling at him, then became engaged in a heated verbal confrontation with the teen, Kafel said.

"It sounds like they were both yelling (racial insults) at each other," she said.

Carmelo also has said her son was "sucker punched" by their neighbor, who repeatedly yelled "white power" and threatened to kill them both.

"I was in disbelief. I've never seen anybody do that before," she said.

Petrisevac has denied having made those statements, electronic civil court documents show.

Carmelo also claimed Petrisevac pointed a rifle or a shotgun at them.

But Kafel said no such weapon was found, although authorities did find a broomstick or mop handle that Petrisevac said he had grabbed to use for protection.

Carmelo said, however, a judge found enough evidence to grant a three-year restraining order against Petrisevac.

She said he was making racist gestures toward her family in the courthouse before that hearing.

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