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Defendant Offered Reduced Sentence for Empathetic Essay

A homeless man facing criminal charges was given a chance at redemption by looking at life through the perspective of the person he targeted. Harold Eugene Denson III faced two criminal charges for his role in an incident with a Ukrainian immigrant. Denson approached the immigrant, spat in his face, threatened him with a knife, and told him to go back to his own country.

Consequently, he was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and second-degree assault, which is classified as a hate crime under Oregon law. However, by pleading no-contest to both charges, the judge was willing to remove the bias charge if Denson could submit a 500-word essay that focuses on the experiences of Eastern European immigrants.

Multnomah County Judge Christopher Ramras said, “What I am asking you to do is put yourself into their shoes.” Deputy District Attorney Nicole Hermann said she hopes the report helps Denson “better understand many of the struggles and the difficulties that people who come from other countries go through when they move to this country and have lived side by side with people who are sometimes not as friendly or kind as they can be.”

Denson was grateful for the judge’s offer. “I appreciate the opportunity to write a report ... rather than stacking up a charge on my record,”

Potential Preaching Angles: Empathy is not only seeing through someone else’s perspective, but doing so because God loves them just as much as us. We live the mission of Jesus when we can encourage and promote peace through the practice of empathy.

Source: Aimee Green, “Portland man who told immigrant to go back to his country asked to write 500-word essay,” OregonLive.com (11-22-19)

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