Portland Man Who Threatened Ukrainian Immigrant Ordered to Write An Essay About Challenges Facing Immigrants

If the essay meets the court's requirements and word count, the bias crime charge will be dropped.

Multnomah County Justice Center (Joe Riedl)

A Portland man who pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree bias crime and one count of unlawful use of a weapon after telling an immigrant to "go back to your country" last month has been assigned a unique addition to his 90-day jail sentence: a 500-word essay focused on the challenges facing immigrants seeking to enter the country.

On Aug. 25, Harold Eugene Denson III scattered trash on the premises of a car dealership. The manager, a Ukranian immigrant, requested that Denson pick up the trash with a trash bag he supplied.

Denson first complied and thanked the manager for the bag, but quickly became irate and began to yell at the manager, claiming that the dealership was on "American soil" and not property of the manager. After asking if the man was American, Denson spit in his face and grabbed a box cutter, threatening to hurt the manager.

Police responded to the scene. No one was hurt.

The idea of writing an essay was originally proposed by Multnomah County Judge Christopher Ramras.

Denson's 90-day prison stint was imposed for the one count of unlawful use of a weapon.

Whether Denson is convicted of the the bias crime charge hinges on his essay; if it "does not meet the court's requirements," according to a release from County District Attorney's office, the charge will be dropped. Denson has until March to complete the essay.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Hermann, who prosecuted the case, called the essay a "unique resolution to a very serious incident."

"Mr. Denson needs to understand the impact his actions had on the victim and our immigrant communities," said Hermann. "This is an opportunity for him to reconcile his behavior through compassion, learning and understanding."

An Oregon law passed in July of this year changed the name of "intimidation" crime to "bias crime" and scuffed the requirement that two or more perpetrators needed to be involved for it to count as a felony charge. The law also added more protected categories under the law, including gender identity.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.