Marin City Man Charged with Hate Crime
Gary Klien, Marin Independent Journal, May 29
Saturday, May 29, 2004 — A black Marin City resident accused of attacking a white Roto-Rooter man with a pit bull was charged yesterday with a racial hate crime, an allegation that could add up to three years to his sentence if he is convicted in the assault.
Dion Ray Moore, 27, was arraigned in Marin Superior Court yesterday on charges of attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon — the dog — and assault likely to cause great bodily injury, plus the hate-crime enhancement, prosecutors said.
Moore also was arrested on a bench warrant for skipping a court hearing Monday in which he was to be sentenced for felony weapon possession, prosecutors said. He had been free on bail pending the hearing.
He is now being held without bail. A plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Authorities said the case was charged as a hate crime because of derogatory remarks the suspect made to the alleged victim. The incident occurred late Wednesday night, when the Roto-Rooter man, 36-year-old Kirk Willwerth of Novato, was called to repair a flooded apartment in the public housing complex.
Willwerth said he was walking toward the entrance to an apartment building at 35 Cole Drive when a group of six to eight men rushed toward him, shouting and swearing because he was a “white man.”
Willwerth said a man with a pit bull began to frisk him for a wire — an electronic recording device worn by police to tape illegal activities — and fumbled with his two cell phones and wallet.
Willwerth said he jumped into his van, but the dog bit him in the pants and its owner repeatedly punched him in the head. Willwerth grabbed the dog, threw it out of the van and drove off, calling 911 after escaping.
Moore was identified as the suspect and arrested a short time later. The pit bull, named Chopper, was seized by the Marin Humane Society.
Law enforcement in Marin City has been an ongoing source of controversy, with some residents complaining that sheriff’s deputies are employing racial profiling by selectively stopping blacks. But authorities said the Roto-Rooter incident is not relevant to the profiling accusations.
“In this case, you have a situation not even involving law enforcement,” sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Pittman said. “In this case, you have people in the community accusing each other.”
“I don’t see that these are connected,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Ed Berberian said. “This is an individual incident that has to be assessed on its own facts.”
Berberian said he could not recall another recent racial hate crime in which the alleged victim was white. But hate crimes of any kind are rare in Marin, he said.
“During the course of a year, we may average anywhere between one and five,” he said.