NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — The judge overseeing an ongoing hate crime trial has denied the defense’s request to dismiss the case.
Christine Longo, 34, of South Kingstown, is standing trial for allegedly berating Adote Akpabie and his family at the Coast Guard House in Narragansett last summer.
“Look at this [expletive] Black guy,” Longo’s accused of shouting at Akpabie as he was walking into the restaurant to reserve a table. “Go back where you came from.”
She then reportedly began shouting at the East Providence man’s wife and two daughters, who were standing outside looking at the menu.
Longo has been charged with a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct and R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha added the state’s rarely used hate crime law to her offense, meaning she could face a stricter sentence if found guilty.
Her attorney, Chad Bank, urged the judge to dismiss the case when the trial resumed Wednesday, arguing that while Longo’s words could be considered offensive, they do not meet the state’s definition of a hate crime.
“The words uttered that day by Miss Longo were offensive, insensitive, crass, cruel, hurtful, maybe even hateful,” Bank said. “I do not condone the language Miss Longo exhibited that day, however, her words are protected under the First Amendment.”
But the judge disagreed with Bank. He said Longo’s remarks towards the Akpabie family are not protected under the First Amendment.
“It is this court’s opinion, they are fighting words, likely to provoke a reaction from the ordinary, average or reasonable person,” the judge said.
The trial is scheduled to resume next week.