Vermont Supreme Court Overturns KKK Flyers Conviction | Off Message
Pin It
Favorite

Friday, May 4, 2018

Vermont Supreme Court Overturns KKK Flyers Conviction

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 12:28 PM

click to enlarge William D. Schenk - BURLINGTON POLICE
  • Burlington Police
  • William D. Schenk
A divided Vermont Supreme Court on Friday overturned the disorderly conduct conviction of a Ku Klux Klan member who left recruitment flyers at the homes of two minority women in Burlington in 2015.

In a 3-2 opinion, justices ruled that William Schenk's action did not convey an "imminent threat of harm" as required by the law to support the charge.

Schenk, 21 at the time, told investigators that he was on a KKK recruiting mission and distributed around 50 flyers that read "Join the Klan and save our land." But authorities said he left flyers for just two people: One of the women is African American, and the other identified herself as Mexican, according to court documents.

"The flyer is a recruitment solicitation — its overt message is to join the Ku Klux Klan," former associate justice John Dooley wrote. "It contains no explicit statement of threat. To the extent that it conveys a message of personal threat to the recipient, it is that the Klan will recruit members and inflict harm in the future."

While Dooley retired at the end of March 2017 — after Schenk’s appeal had been filed and oral arguments had been made — he stayed on the case.

In April 2016, Schenk pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to four months in prison. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

The long-awaited decision caused a rare split on the high court, which tends to have fewer close decisions in high-profile cases than its federal counterpart.

Dooley was joined in the majority opinion by Associate Justices Marilyn Skoglund and Harold Eaton. Chief Justice Paul Reiber and Associate Justice Beth Robinson dissented.

In the dissent, Robinson wrote that the majority's interpretation of threatening behavior is "excessively narrow," though she acknowledged the case was "difficult and close."

"The distribution of literature extolling the Ku Klux Klan when delivered only to two targeted individuals who are racial or ethnic minorities, is especially threatening when delivered inside the [perimeter] of their own homes," Robinson wrote.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It
Favorite

Did you appreciate this story?

Show us your ❤️ by becoming a Seven Days Super Reader.

About The Author

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

Bio:
Mark Davis is a Seven Days staff writer.

More by Mark Davis

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Off Message

Social Club

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2018 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation