White supremacist told to pay for threat

Philadelphia Inquirer/July 21, 2000
By Ralph Vigoda

A woman who left Pennsylvania after death threats aimed at her were posted on a hate group's Internet site has been awarded $1.1 million in damages for herself and her daughter.

An administrative law judge ordered admitted white supremacist Ryan Wilson of Philadelphia to pay that amount to Bonnie Jouhari, a fair-housing activist from Reading who moved out of state in 1998 after Wilson's organization posted the messages suggesting violence against her.

Speaking yesterday from the West Coast, where she now lives, Jouhari said she does not expect to see the money.

"I don't think we'll get much, if any, cash out of it," she said. "This wasn't our objective in the first place. Our objective was to get justice done.

"I would hope it serves as a deterrent and . . . gives some hope to those who are being victimized by these hatemongers. This says that no one has a right on the Internet to threaten to kill people."

The award follows a default judgment made in court against Wilson in March, after he failed to respond to federal charges.

Wilson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The case, which drew a distinct line between protected free speech and threats, was championed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Part of Jouhari's job was helping victims of housing discrimination file complaints under the Fair Housing Act, and HUD brought the suit against Wilson and his neo-Nazi group, ALPHA HQ, for violating that act. It was believed to be the first time a federal agency had acted against a known Internet hate-site operator.

One of the Internet postings included a threat to hang Jouhari "from the nearest tree or lamp post."

The Web site was discontinued by order of Pennsylvania authorities. Jouhari is out of work, and said she was struggling financially.

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