A reported member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) shot his daughter’s Black boyfriend multiple times during what he described without proof as an instance of self-defense last month in Virginia Beach. As a result, Patrick Fonatine Creath Jr. incredulously had his bail set at just $500. He paid it and is now, conditionally, a free man, after spending only one week in jail for an offense that has historically kept Black suspects behind bars.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump brought attention to the case when he tweeted about it early Wednesday morning and identified Creath as “a known member of the KKK.” Creath, 43, was charged with malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to local news outlet WAVY, instead of being hit with an attempted murder charge. Crump said Creath was “trying to KILL” his daughter’s boyfriend.
Creath’s relatively low bail brought attention to the discrepancy along racial lines for who receives bail and the amount of money that bonds are set at.
Court documents show that Creath claimed on June 19, his daughter’s boyfriend “kept threatening to kill him” and pointed a gun at him and his daughter “as if to shoot them” while driving away. Creath claimed he feared for their lives and shot his own gun at the boyfriend “in defense of himself and his daughter.” The boyfriend was hit three times and his car was riddled with bullets.
Police responded to the scene and said they recovered a gun that allegedly belonged to the boyfriend, who was treated for his non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital. However, the boyfriend has not been charged with any crime and as of Wednesday morning.
Creath made bail last Friday.
While it was clear that a judge who set Creath’s bail was sympathetic, Virginia’s laws might not be.
“Virginia law defines a justifiable act of self-defense as when the person acting in self-defense did not provoke the attack. An excusable self-defense is defined in the law as a situation when a person provoked the attack, but tried to retreat from the attack before using deadly force in self-defense,” WUSA reported last year. “Section 18.2-282 of Virginia law also states that it is unlawful to display a firearm in attempts to scare another person unless a person is engaged in a justifiable or excusable self-defense situation.”
However, WUSA cautioned, those scenarios are under “what’s called a castle doctrine, which allows homeowners to use deadly force to protect themselves, their home and their family. However, the use of deadly force must be considered reasonable.”
The castle doctrine was invoked by the judge presiding over the Botham Jean murder trial in Dallas last year, when former police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty for killing an unarmed Black man in his own home after purportedly mistaking his apartment for her own. The self-defense statute is very similar to the controversial Stand Your Ground laws.
But while Guyger was convicted, she was bonded out on $200,000. The low bail for Creath suggests that he may have a much different outcome.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit group that addresses mass criminalization and incarceration, “Across the country, Black and brown defendants are at least 10-25% more likely than white defendants to be detained pretrial or to have to pay money bail.” In addition, the Prison Policy Initiative found that, “Black and brown defendants receive bail amounts that are twice as high as bail set for white defendants – and they are less likely to be able to afford it.”
Creath is due back in court Aug. 21.
This is America.