LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office has declined to file a hate-crime charge against a City Council critic who used racially insensitive imagery in a written note to a black official.
Wayne Spindler was arrested in May after submitting a comment card containing Ku Klux Klan images, a racial slur and profanity during a meeting chaired by black Councilman Herb Wesson.
The D.A.’s Office cited Spindler’s First Amendment rights and what they called insufficient evidence that he violated any of the threat statutes as reasons for not filing criminal charges.
“There is no doubt that the speaker card contained hateful and extremely outrageous words and imagery that we reject as being deeply offensive, morally wrong and socially reprehensible,” according to a charge evaluation worksheet from the D.A.’s Office.
But, the worksheet also said, there was insufficient evidence to prove that Spindler crossed the “sometimes nebulous line between constitutionally protected free speech and punishable `true threat.
Spindler, 46, frequently speaks at council meetings, is critical of the government,and often holds a puppet while making vulgar comments directed at members.
The comment card that spurred Spindler’s arrest featured images of a burning cross and a figure hanging from a tree by a noose. At the center of the card was a drawing of what appears to be a person wearing a KKK hood and carrying a noose and a sign that says “Herb = (the N-word).” He also wore a hood with a swastika.
Vanessa Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Wesson, said he was disappointed by the D.A.’s decision.
“We found the threat to be morally reprehensible. We will continue in our role as public servants,” she said.
Spindler could not be reached for comment.
Wesson called a news conference after the committee meeting to denounce the imagery and language in the comment card, saying, “You don’t threaten a black man that way.”
Wesson subsequently obtained a restraining order requiring Spindler to stay at least 10 yards from him during council and committee meetings.
Spindler filed claims in June against the city related to his arrest, alleging $775,000 in damages.
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