PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's attorney general plans to appeal a judge's decision that a woman did not commit a hate crime when she directed a profanity-laced rant at a Black family at a restaurant.
Christine Longo, who is white, was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct Tuesday for yelling at the East Providence family of four and telling them to “go back where you came from” in June 2020 at the waterfront restaurant in Narragansett.
But Judge James Caruolo, who called Longo's actions “vile and disgusting,” determined he did not have the “authority or autonomy” to apply the state's hate crime enhancement, which could have meant a harsher sentence for the 34-year-old South Kingstown woman.
“If the legislature wanted to include petty misdemeanors in the sentencing-enhancement statute, it would have done so,” Caruolo said.
Longo received six months of probation and community service.
“We are grateful for the court’s verdict finding the defendant guilty of disorderly conduct, which is entirely warranted based on the evidence we presented at trial," Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement posted on his office's website. “We respectfully disagree with the court’s narrow reading of Rhode Island law regarding whether the hate crime sentencing enhancement applies to the crime of disorderly conduct."
He said he will appeal to the Superior Court and, if necessary, seek a change to state law.
Longo's attorney, who had argued that his client's words were constitutionally protected free speech, said he also plans to appeal.