The story behind the story

The Life & Times-Gazette of Irv Oslin

Chasing the boogeyman — part two

In the previous post I mentioned that I was covering an ethnic intimidation trial. The verdict did not surprise me. After all, the alleged perp was tried by a jury of his peers, not by a jury of the victim’s peers. Not many Saudi Arabians qualified for jury duty in Ashland County.

Here’s the news article, which should give you an idea of how it went. It will be followed by comments posted on the Times-Gazette Website. As I had said in the previous post, my hope was that it generated dialog. It did.

The defendant
William A. Gedraitis sits in Municipal Court Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 during his trial. Photo by Tom E. Puskar

William Gedraitis

T-G Staff Writer
A Municipal Court jury found a Perrysville man innocent Thursday of ethnic intimidation against a Middle Eastern man.
William A. Gedraitis was charged with menacing and ethnic intimidation in connection with an incident Sept. 1 at Denny’s Restaurant on U.S. 250 East.
After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury found him not guilty on both counts.
According to court testimony, Gedraitis, 41, 2985 County Road 917, had been drinking with friends at Beano’s in Loudonville and later went to Denny’s.
The alleged victim, Fahad A. Alsifiany of Ashland, testified that he had three or four beers earlier in the evening at Linder’s, went home, then later went alone to Denny’s to eat.
Alsifiany is from Saudi Arabia. He came to the U.S. to complete his education and has been living in Ashland with his wife while she attended Ashland University. She recently completed her master’s degree.
At about 2:45 a.m., Gedraitis walked up to where Alsifiany was seated in a corner booth, shook his hand and sat next to him. Alsifiany testified that Gedraitis then got in his face and told him he wasn’t welcome in this country and that we would kick him out. Alsifiany characterized the encounter as hostile and said he was afraid Gedraitis would assault him.
Prosecution witness Carl Daniels of Loudonville also testified that Gedraitis “wasn’t so friendly” and that he told Alsifiany he wasn’t welcome here. Daniels and Sheriff’s Sgt. Cindy Benner also testified that Gedraitis and his companions appeared very intoxicated.
A witness for the defense, Daniel Hyatt of Loudonville, characterized the encounter as cordial.
“He walked over, held out his hand and said, “Welcome to our country’,” Hyatt testified.
Benner, however, testified that, when she questioned Hyatt after the incident, he told her he hadn’t heard Gedraitis say anything to Alsifiany.
According to court testimony, after the encounter, Alsifiany used the restaurant’s wireless phone to call 911. After Gedraitis and his companions went out to the parking lot, Alsifiany went out to get the license plate number.
Defense attorney Michael Lear of Cleveland raised the question that, if Alsifiany was in fear, why would he go out to the parking lot?
Alsifiany indicated that he wasn’t afraid at that point because Gedraitis and his friends were leaving.
At issue in the case is whether Gedraitis knowingly put Alsifiany in a position where he felt physically threatened. Jurors were told the state had to prove that element of the offense in order to convict him of menacing and ethnic intimidation.
The jury found that wasn’t the case.
Municipal Court Judge Jacob Fridline found Gedraitis guilty of a separate count of disorderly conduct in connection with the case and fined him $150.
After the verdict, Gedraitis indicated that the jury made the right decision.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “I approached the gentleman and welcomed him to the country.”
Gedraitis added that Alsifiany apparently misunderstood and overreacted.
Alsifiany was not present when the verdict was announced. Reached later, he said he was saddened by it.
He said he was afraid other Middle Eastern students living in Ashland would be victimized.
“I’m afraid this man is going to do it over and over,” Alsifiany said.
Although he believes calling the police was the right action to take, Alsifiany said he was disappointed that justice wasn’t served.

Posted by info about 20 hours ago
I have encountered MANY foreign residents and have NEVER felt the need to approach them and say welcome to our country. Maybe if Mr. Gedraitis does not agree with our freedoms in this country he should find a country that would accept his crap. As for me, I rather enjoy the melting pot we call the United States of America and do not see it as my right to tell someone else they are not welcome in this country. Grow up Mr. Gedraitis, you are not the welcoming committee for Ashland County. You are one of the examples of what is wrong with this country and I am VERY glad you don’t reside in my neighborhood.

Posted by elophan10538 about 21 hours ago
Whoever appointed Gedraitis to head the Welcome Wagon, would you please withdraw your selection?!

Posted by nwasen1 about 23 hours ago
Sad to hear this verdict and that Mr. Daniels’s testimony fell on deaf ears. And that Mr. Hyatt later reversed his statement that he hadn’t heard anything!
I can only hope that Mr. Alsifiany knows that not everyone in Ashland County doesn’t welcome people from other lands.


One thought on “The story behind the story

  1. Reference is made to Mr. Gedraitis…prayerfully the $150 fine was a result of making sure this person learmed that due to the charges the judicial system could not find him guilty…but rest assure… your actions were inappropriate and while you were not found guilty of the specific charges… let the $150 show you…you got off very lucky and hopefully you have learned what translates into being a “biggot”…not being there…this is an opinion reflective of what was reported…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s