A judge acquitted a white woman of ethnic intimidation after she hit a Black man and used a racial slur at a western Michigan car dealership, saying she likely would have had a similar reaction with someone who wasn’t African American.
The Associated Press reports Shelly Heuckel was convicted of assault but cleared of ethnic intimidation.
An attorney for Hueckel said she was upset by an appraisal for her car not the race of the car salesman at a dealership in Lowell last April, and Kent County Judge Paul Sullivan agreed, the AP reports. Sullivan said Hueckel would have reacted the same way whether the man was Black or not.
“The problem came when he told her the value of her trade-in vehicle … That’s when, for lack of a better word, all hell broke out,” the judge said. The misdemeanor assault charge Hueckel was convicted of carries a maximum punishment of 93 days in jail, the AP reports. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” the judge told Hueckel, who did not testify and kept her back to reporters.
Assistant Prosecutor Angela Curtis argued that the victim, Terrance Smith’s race was on Heuckel’s mind during the assault and use of racial slurs. Curtis said,“You don’t say that word by accident.”
“She was angry and she said things she shouldn’t have said. She was uncivil. She acted like a juvenile,” the judge said, according to the AP. “If I were a parent and she was a child, she’d be taken out back and disciplined in some way … The words caused hurt, and understandably so.”
Smith disagreed with the judge’s decision and commented on the ruling to the AP, saying, “How do you do this to a human being and just walk away? … I don’t have any other words.”