Klamath Falls Man Sentenced for Threatening Vietnamese Neighbors and Interfering with their Right to Live in Home
MEDFORD, Ore. – On Friday, October 14, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke sentenced John Blayne Vangastel, 37, of Klamath Falls, to five years of probation following his guilty plea to one count of using force or threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the housing rights of his neighbors because of their Vietnamese descent.
According to court documents, on the evening of December 30, 2015, Vangastel, who had been living next door to the victims for approximately three months, entered the family’s property without permission. Vangastel then forcibly blocked the family’s front gate so they could not park their vehicles on the property after returning home from work. When one of the family members told Vangastel to let go of the gate and leave the property, Vangastel told the victim he would have to “push [him] off the property.” Vangastel then raised his hand in a balled fist as though he was going to physically assault one of the female family members. He further admitted to instigating a fight with the entire family, threatening to hit them, and making racially-charged comments.
The December 2015 incident was the culmination of Vangastel’s repeated intimidation of his neighbors, who had lived at their residence for twenty years without incident. As a result of Vangastel’s conduct and out of fear of continued abuse, the family moved from their home.
“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the civil rights and freedoms of all Oregonians,” said Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon. “Criminal threats of violence that target people and communities because of their national origin threaten the core values that define a fair and just society. We will continue to partner with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to aggressively and effectively prosecute hate crimes throughout the state.”
“Everyone in this country has the right to peacefully occupy their homes without fear of violence or intimidation on account of their national origin,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Harassing and threatening force against innocent individuals because of where they or their relatives were born is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to prosecute individuals who commit violence motivated by such bias.”
This case was investigated by the Medford Resident Agency of the FBI’s Portland Division in cooperation with the Oregon State Police and Klamath County District Attorney’s Office. The case was prosecuted by William E. Fitzgerald, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.