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Concord man gets up to 12 years for hate crime

  • Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Donald Freese faces charges of accomplice to simple assault and criminal threatenting with a knife in aJuly 2012 attack on Route 3A in Hooksett, January 14, 2013.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

The Concord man convicted of the county’s first racially motivated hate crime struggled to breathe through sobs at his sentencing yesterday as his mother asked a judge for sympathy in light of her son’s tragic childhood.

But when Donald Freese spoke on his own behalf, that initial grief turned to defiance as he repeated that racism wasn’t his motivation for beating a black man while calling him a “n-----.”

“I’ll take responsibility for what I did but this was no hate crime,” Freese said. “In no way.”

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara called Freese’s contention a lack of “understanding” – not a lack of acceptance – for his crime. He ordered 22-year-old Freese to serve four to 12 years at the state prison, just short of the maximum sentence allowed with the enhanced penalty for hate crimes taken into account.

“What struck me the most is what you told a probation officer, which was all you did was protect your buddy. You did a lot more than that,” the judge said. “Until you understand exactly what you did, the public needs to be protected.
. . . I know you need counseling and treatment but that counseling and treatment is going to have to be afforded to you while you’re incarcerated.”

Freese is one of two men who have been convicted for the July 31, 2012, daytime attack in front of the Hooksett Market Basket. At a January trial, witnesses said they saw Freese jump out of a car, pull Alhaji Kargbo off his moped and repeatedly punch and kick him, all while calling the man a “f------ n-----.” After a short break in the fighting, Freese brandished a knife and slashed it at Kargbo, who witnesses said escaped being cut only by dodging the blade.

Prosecutor Wayne Coull yesterday characterized the case as one of the worst he had seen “in terms of its outrageous nature and its just ignorant hate.” And he argued for nearly the harshest prison sentence he could, saying Freese’s criminal history – a long string of misdemeanors that took nearly a minute to list – makes clear that stays at the county jail “have meant nothing to this defendant.”

Freese’s attorney, though, told the judge Freese had started to see success on probation just before his latest arrest and hadn’t been in trouble with the police in 10 months, progress for someone with his history.

Attorney Ted Barnes also used the sentencing to make the same argument he did at trial, that “n-----” was just an empty insult in the context of the fight. He said witnesses who testified about the shock and sadness they felt as Freese repeated the slur are “fooling themselves if they think they haven’t heard the n-word used in a nonoffensive way.”

And he again took issue with the way witnesses and Coull described the confrontation, saying Kargbo chased Freese’s car a mile down Route 3A from where the first insult was yelled, then threw the first punch. When Freese got the knife, it was because Kargbo refused to walk away, Barnes said.

“If Mr. Coull wants repentance from Mr. Freese for being a racist, he’s not going to get it. Because he’s not a racist. And I’m pretty comfortable saying it because I know some of his black friends at the jail,” said Barnes, who plans to appeal Freese’s conviction.

He asked McNamara to sentence Freese on the two charges, simple assault and criminal threatening, to consecutive terms of one to four years.

Freese’s mother, Kim MacDonald, also asked McNamara to consider the abuse her son faced from his father growing up, and his father’s ultimate suicide when Freese was 16.

“My son may come off as strong, angry, on the outside. But inwardly he’s a follower and he’s scared,” she said. “I know my son. I ask that you see my son as an individual waiting for one person he can trust to allow them in to help him, help him to lead a healthier life.”

Freese also mentioned his father’s death when speaking to the judge, and said he “grew a little careless and has a lot of regrets.”

But he said that he had rekindled a relationship with his mother and sister before his arrest and was beginning to find purpose in life.

McNamara, though, noted that the serious crimes were committed while he was on probation. The judge said he was concerned because Freese hasn’t been able to manage his “problems.”

After the sentence was read, Freese rubbed his hands against his shaved head, then walked in handcuffs and surrounded by friends to the elevator. Before the doors closed, what seemed to be shock turned to anger, as he yelled out “f---” so loudly that it carried through the courtroom.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or
tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)

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