Monday, March 28, 2011

No Charges in Reported Hate Crime Against Alshaibi

Posted By on 03.28.11 at 12:15 PM

Jefferson County attorney Tim Dille announced today that no charges will be filed in the case of the reported beating of Iraqi American filmmaker Usama Alshaibi, which Alshaibi initially called a hate crime.

Update: The Demoines Register posted a video interview with Alshaibi after the announcement.

On the early morning of March 6, Alshaibi said he wandered into a house in Fairfield, Iowa, where he moved from Chicago last year, after a woman outside told him there was a party upstairs. He said after he told the people inside his name, four young men punched and kicked him in the face and called him racial slurs. Afterward, paramedics treated him for bloody injuries to his face and head.

According to Dille's report, a joint investigation by Fairfield Police and the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations found that Alshaibi had entered a gathering of three teens and a 20-year-old man who had just watched the home invasion thriller The Strangers. According to the report, the people in the house said they asked Alshaibi to leave, and when he did not immediately do so, possibly because he could not find the door in the dark entrance, one of the teens pushed him outside.

"The kids report that when Mr. Alshaibi was thrown out he fell and landed face first. As he tried to regain his feet he fell again, this time down the stairs landing on a concrete landing," the report states. "The kids also report that after he was outside they began asking him questions about why he was there and what his name was. When he responded that his name was Usama the kids responded to that comment. Although they report they thought he was joking. This office believes it is likely that Mr. Alshaibi heard some words and phrases that could be considered racial slurs. This conclusion is based upon the statements of the witnesses, items located on social networking sites, and some of the behaviors observed prior to and during the interviews."

The report concludes that the teen who pushed Alshaibi "was just trying to get Mr. Alshaibi out of the house... It would clearly be assault if the injuries were a result of a beating. Here it is just as likely that the injuries were caused by the multiple falls outside of the home. If the evidence is not clear, we cannot prove a crime took place."

The report finds that the teen who pushed Alshaibi appears "justified in his behavior. Iowa law recognizes the 'castle doctrine' which states that a person has no duty to retreat from his residence. Rather, a person has the right to protect themselves inside their own house. The only requirement is that the act be reasonable." The teen "did not use a weapon or anything excessive. He simply pushed Mr. Alshaibi out of the... home after hearing... [Alshaibi] was not welcome and should leave."

The report dismisses the assertion that the incident was a hate crime, saying "it is our belief that this physical contact would have happened to any person regardless of national origin or race."

The report does question the fact that no one at the house called the police after the incident or after news reports emerged. "[T]he kids had read the claims made by Mr. Alshaibi and discussed them before they were ever interviewed," the report notes. "That creates the possibility of the kids trying to get their story straight before meeting with the police. There are some obvious inconsistencies in all the stories that cannot be reconciled with the known facts. The publicity also caused the kids to want to rebut what they had read rather than simply giving a statement. These are all factors that were considered in reviewing the evidence and considering how any information may be presented and attacked in a trial."

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