Monday, April 22, 2024

Man gets prison for malicious harassment

Staff Report | April 3, 2024 1:00 AM

A Washington man received a prison sentence for lunging at a Post Falls police officer after calling the officer racist slurs, according to the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Dwayne T. Houston, 40, pleaded guilty in January to malicious harassment and possession of methamphetamine, both felonies.

District Judge Barbara Duggan sentenced Houston on Tuesday to five years in prison for each charge, with the sentences to run concurrently and probation eligibility after two years.

In Idaho, it is unlawful to threaten, intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin. Incidents must involve injury, property damage or a reasonable threat of either one in order to be considered malicious harassment.

“The crime of malicious harassment does not prohibit free speech or the use of racial slurs,” the prosecutor’s office said in a news release. “As illustrated in this case, malicious harassment prohibits threats — lunging at an officer — that are racially motivated. Motive can be established by the surrounding circumstances of each case, commonly by the words a perpetrator uses during the threat.”

The charges stem from July 9, 2023, when Post Falls police responded to a Taco Bell parking lot in order to investigate a fight in the drive-thru lane.

Houston, who was not involved in the fight, reportedly came outside and “verbally interrupted the investigation.” Prosecutors said he targeted an African American officer, asking why the officer was looking at him.

When the officer told Houston to have a nice day, Houston replied, “You, too, boy,” putting emphasis on the word “boy.” Prosecutors said Houston used the word “boy” as a racist slur.

Houston repeatedly called the officer “boy” and “cute,” prosecutors said, and also referred to the officer’s “smile, lips and mother.”

Prosecutors said Houston “stared the officer down” and came within arm’s reach of him before calling him a “public-ass-servant.”

The officer shined a flashlight into Houston’s eyes, prosecutors said, and Houston lunged at him.

“Get your mother— s—t out of my face, boy,” Houston reportedly said.

Police arrested Houston and found methamphetamine in his pockets, prosecutors said.

At the time of his arrest, Houston was wearing a leather belt with the words “TEXAS BANDIDOS” on it, with the X replaced with a swastika.

Houston has prior convictions in Washington for assault, harassment, exhibiting a weapon with intent to intimidate, robbery and possession of a controlled substance, according to the prosecutor’s office. When he was arrested in Post Falls, he reportedly had pending charges out of Washington for assault, malicious mischief and hit and run.

In two prior cases, prosecutors said Houston allegedly used anti-gay slurs in reference to victims.