A racist white man who rented property to a Black family with children has been given a relatively light prison sentence after he pleaded guilty and openly admitted to being motivated by his racism for discriminating against and “threatening to kill” the tenants in North Carolina. The “justice” was far from swift.
Douglas Matthew Gurkins was sentenced nearly six years after he drove to the Black family’s home in Greenville and threatened them with bodily harm while “yelling racial slurs” because he said they did not “belong” there.
Gurkins, 34, “told the family that they did not belong in their home and then threatened to shoot the family, to include four minor children, and any other African American that came onto the property” according to an FBI press release that references the fateful encounter in December 2014. “After making this threat, the defendant brandished a metal rod in a threatening manner.”
In August, Gurkins, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act. He was sentenced on Monday to just 28 months in federal prison, a fraction of the maximum penalty he was facing of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, there was no mention in the press release of Gurkins being fined.
“Part of what makes the United States free is the guarantee that we can live anywhere in this country without regard to the color of our skin and without murderous threats directed at us and our children,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “This defendant terrorized an entire family by threatening to kill African American parents and their four children and others because of their race. This kind of cruel terror has no place in the United States of America, and the U.S. Department of Justice will remain vigilant in prosecuting anyone who interferes with any families’ housing rights.”
If Gurkins’ sentence was any indication, he will likely be eligible for a probationary release earlier than scheduled.
While the sentence was not close to the maximum he could have gotten, it could also be seen as a miracle, what with housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson having been accused of “further weakening enforcement of fair housing laws.”
Gurkins’ rap sheet shows he was previously charged with “communicating threats” four different times and charged with “stalking” and “trespassing.” However, he never served any prison time for those misdemeanors. He was also convicted in 2011 for larceny, a felony for which he also avoided jail and instead was allowed to perform community service as part of a suspended sentence, according to the North Carolina Department Of Public Safety
Offender Public Information.
Considering that type of established history of racism and violence Gurkins has, it was unclear why his sentence was not closer to the maximum 10 years. And by “unclear,” we mean it’s probably because he’s white.
This is America.