Oregon State student convicted of hate crime
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon State University student with ties to white nationalists in the Pacific Northwest was convicted Thursday on charges related to putting offensive stickers on the cars of members of a racial justice group.
Benton County Circuit Court Judge David Connell found Andrew Oswalt guilty of all five criminal counts stemming from the June 2017 incident that came to light while Oswalt served as a student government representative, The Oregonian reported .
Prosecutors had charged the Ph.D. candidate in chemistry with three counts of intimidation, a felony hate crime under Oregon statute. He was also charged with two counts of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.
“The impact of his actions goes beyond the vehicles and individuals he targeted,” said Ryan Joslin, Benton County prosecuting attorney. “His intent was to terrorize an entire community.”
Corvallis police say Oswalt and an accomplice placed bumper stickers with a racist slur about black people on two cars at a Corvallis food co-op in June 2017.
The vehicles belonged to members of the Corvallis chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice, which held a meeting at the co-op to discuss ways to combat white supremacy as well as those promoting racist or bigoted views in the area, prosecutors said in court.
A co-op employee also discovered anti-Semitic leaflets on the windshields of every car in the staff parking lot at the time.
Police said officers later searched Oswalt’s residence and found matching bumper stickers and fliers. Oswalt was identified through surveillance footage from the scene, police said. Police never identified the second suspect.
Oswalt’s attorney, Nicolas Ortiz, argued in court that prosecution had failed to conclusively prove whether Oswalt placed the stickers and that the state had not proved that Oswalt knew anything about the individual attendees of the meeting so he could not have been targeting them over their race or religion as required by the intimidation statute.
Oswalt declined to comment after the verdict was announced, according to the Gazette-Times. Ortiz suggested in comments to the judge that he was considering an appeal.
In January, Oswalt was ousted from his student government role following his arrest and after the student newspaper published an interview with him in which he shared inflammatory thoughts about minorities and women.
Oswalt affirmed those beliefs in a January email to The Oregonian, saying white people have greater intelligence than other racial or ethnic groups. He said he prefers to be known as an “ethno-nationalist.”
He will be sentenced Dec. 12.