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Judge Sentences White Man To NAACP Work After Attack on Blacks

February 23, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ A 21-year-old white man ″taught to hate black people″ was sentenced Tuesday to perform 200 hours of community service for the NAACP after he admitted chasing two blacks with a baseball bat.

Cook County Circuit Judge Stuart Nudelman said he hoped that by working with blacks, James Kalafut would overcome his prejudice.

″He has been taught to hate black people for some reason,″ Nudelman said after the sentencing. ″I’m trying to put him in an environment where he can perhaps do some good and learn something about the people he thinks he hates and perhaps learn that his feelings are misguided.″

Kalafut was charged Aug. 16 after he and other whites brandishing baseball bats, throwing bottles and shouting racial slurs chased two blacks from a transit stop in Gage Park, a predominantly white neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The plumbing company laborer could have been sentenced to a year in prison on his plea of guilty to aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation, the judge said.

Kalafut’s brother, Larry, is serving a six-year prison term after pleading guilty to firebombing the home of a black family who had moved into Gage Park, said Barry Silver, James’ attorney.

Silver said the order for his client to work for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is ″a good sentence given the fact that he’s basically pleaded guilty to hating a minority group.″

″By being with black people, he will have a chance to learn they are no different than he is except that the color of their skin is different. I think that is an important lesson for anyone to learn, especially someone who has been involved in this kind of activity,″ Silver said.

The attorney said James Kalafut, who declined to be interviewed, was willing to give the sentence a try but was ″concerned about his own personal safety when he is in the neighborhood of the NAACP,″ located on Chicago’s South Side.

He also said Kalafut was concerned about being rejected by NAACP officials and being ″made the scapegoat in a sort of reverse discrimination.″

The NAACP plans to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, said Edward McClellan, president of the group’s South Side branch.

″Certainly we don’t presume there are only white racists or what have you,″ McClellan said. ″Racism can be engendered by anyone inclined to that sort of prejudice.″

He said it wasn’t the civil-rights group’s job to punish Kalafut. He also said he wasn’t sure what type of work the group would ask him to perform.

″I can only hope his attitude is such that he’s willing to come here and pay his debt to society,″ McClellan said. ″I would hope that he would have some positive reflections from this experience that maybe he’s been hating the wrong thing.″

Nudelman said that trying to help Kalafut overcome his prejudice made more sense than sentencing him to jail, ″where he won’t learn anything except more hatred.″

But the judge warned, ″If he screws up and doesn’t do what he’s supposed to, he’ll come back before me and I’ll sentence him to jail.″

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