SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Eric Clawson, 28, of San Francisco, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr., for depriving the civil rights of an African-American man when he assaulted the victim in a bar. During the same proceeding, Clawson pleaded guilty in an unrelated case to one count of mail fraud. Judge England sentenced the defendant to a combined term of 37 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $92,804 for the mail fraud conviction.
On March 24, 2010, following a three-day trial, a federal jury convicted Clawson of the federal hate crime charge. The evidence at trial showed that on the evening of July 6, 2008, Clawson entered Riley’s Bar & Grill in Chico, Calif., and used a racially-derogatory term to object to the presence of the victim, who was a complete stranger to the defendant. Clawson repeated this slur several times before approaching the victim and punching him in the face without any provocation. The assault rendered the victim unconscious and inflicted injuries to his face and mouth. A second defendant and associate of Clawson, Joe Grivette, who was with Clawson when the assault took place, previously pleaded guilty on March 15, 2010, to a related charge of misprision of a felony.
"Racial violence is offensive to our nation’s fundamental values," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting the federal laws prohibiting violent acts motivated by hate."
With respect to the mail fraud charge, Clawson fraudulently purchased two properties in Chico in 2007. Clawson knowingly signed loan applications that contained false employment histories and inflated income. He also falsely claimed he would occupy the second property as his primary residence. Falsified documents were submitted to lenders in order to obtain the loans.
"The defendant’s unprovoked racial attack on a fellow citizen who was patronizing a commercial establishment is precisely the sort of crime that the federal civil rights laws were intended to cover," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin B. Wagner. "Prosecuting hate crimes and mortgage fraud are two priorities of this U.S. Attorney’s Office. That we were able, in a single proceeding, to hold a defendant accountable for both types of offenses indicates that our focus on these crimes is yielding results."
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and Trial Attorney Edward Chung of the Civil Rights Division. The case was investigated by FBI Special Agent Mark Roberts and officers of the Butte County Sheriff’s Department and the Chico Police Department.