FULLERTON (AP) — A California man was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for making racist threats against a pregnant African American woman in a court-offered plea deal that rankled prosecutors and community advocates.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Roger B. Robbins made the offer to Tyson Mayfield, noting no weapon was used or injury caused during the crime.
Prosecutors sought a 38-year-to-life sentence for Mayfield for threatening the woman, who was eight months pregnant, and her unborn baby last year at a bus stop in Fullerton, prompting her to use pepper spray to protect herself and eventually run for help.
Authorities said Mayfield, 43, who is white and has a swastika tattoo and several prior convictions for attacking bystanders, including punching a man outside a supermarket in 2017 while yelling racist slurs.
“Quite frankly, your honor, he scares me,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer told the judge in opposing the deal. “He is indiscriminately picking out people when he doesn’t like the way they look and using violence against them.”
Defense attorney Paul Rogers said Mayfield was eligible for the deal because he had no weapon and no one was injured. A message was left for Rogers after the hearing seeking comment.
Hate crimes across the United States increased 17% in 2017, marking a rise for the third straight year, according to the FBI. Hate crimes and hate incidents have also risen in recent years in Orange County, according to the county’s human relations commission.
After the court hearing, African American and other community leaders said they were upset by Mayfield’s short sentence and concerned about the message it sends to other perpetrators.
Prosecutors said Mayfield shouldn’t have been eligible for the deal because of his prior convictions, for example, hitting a man at a gas station in 2006 and stabbing a man in the face near a liquor store in 2005.
Initially, the judge was going to offer Mayfield an even shorter sentence but reconsidered after prosecutors voiced opposition, Spitzer said.
Victim Jasmine Crenshaw said in court she thought the sentence was too short, recalling how her heart was racing and legs shaking after Mayfield told men at the bus stop he hated black people and headed toward her, clenching his fists and yelling racist slurs and saying he would make her “drop your baby.”
“I had to literally run for my life and my unborn child,” she said. “I feel like he should be in prison for a very, very long time.”