PROVIDENCE — A retired oral surgeon is appealing his conviction of assaulting his Iranian Muslim neighbor in Barrington, and prosecutors will again try to have him sentenced for a hate crime.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter F. Neronha confirmed that prosecutors are again seeking a hate crime enhancement against Dr. Richard Gordon for the racial slurs and abuse caught on camera last summer. Gordon was found guilty of disorderly conduct and assault in February, but District Court Judge Steven Isherwood had denied prosecutors’ request for a 30-day sentence enhancement under Rhode Island’s Hate Crime Enhancement Act. While Gordon’s actions was “repulsive,” Isherwood said he didn’t find they were motivated by hatred or animus to his neighbors’ race or religion.
Gordon was ordered to serve a year’s probation for assault, another six months probation for disorderly conduct, and to undergo a mental health evaluation, sensitivity training, and have no contact with his neighbors.
Gordon apologized in court for his actions, and about a week later, he filed his appeal for a new trial in Superior Court, with a new lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Robert Clarke Corrente.
Since the appeal will be a new proceeding that will allow a fresh analysis to the lower court’s decision, the state prosecution refiled a hate crime sentencing enhancement on March 2.
“It has been the position of this office that, as is the case in other states with similar laws, criminal misconduct that is motivated, at least in part, by racial or other animus subjects a defendant to the hate crime sentencing enhancement,” Neronha said in a statement Monday. “It remains our position that criminal misconduct motivated in any way by bigotry or bias merits the strongest possible response.”
Gordon’s neighbors, Bahram Pahlavi and his wife, Dr. Iman Ali, had testified about problems with Gordon since they moved to the exclusive Rumstick Point neighborhood three years ago.
Ali testified that her father worried for their safety. Their vehicles’ tires were flattened with nails and slashed in their driveway, and their mechanic advised them to install cameras to catch the culprit. Their cameras filmed Gordon in their driveway; the vandalism stopped after Ali told Gordon’s wife, Patricia, that he was on camera.
Rosa rugosa bushes that blocked Gordon’s view died. A local worker, who is Hispanic, told the Pahlavis that Gordon had threatened to have him deported.
On Aug. 3, 2020, after Pahlavi replaced a surveyor’s marker that had been mistakenly placed on Gordon’s lawn, Gordon came outside and launched into tirade filled with obscenities and racial slurs. On the phone with police, Gordon falsely clamed Pahlavi had attacked him with a hammer.
In videos recorded by Ali, posted on Facebook and played in court, she interrupted Gordon while he was on the phone with police, asking if he thought Pahlavi would get shot by the police because he’s a person of color. Instead, the Barrington police investigated the incident and arrested Gordon.
Pahlavi and Ali had been shocked and disappointed that the judge hadn’t seen Gordon’ actions as a hate crime. In a witness impact statement, Pahlavi said that Gordon’s tirade and lies to police were all part of what they’d endured from him.
“In his mind, I simply don’t belong here – whether because of my Iranian heritage, my religion or my ethnic appearance,” Pahlavi wrote. “Richard Gordon took calculated steps to make sure that I understood that I am not welcome in the neighborhood because of my race. His attack on me was a particularly heinous, egregious effort to show me my place as a person of color. He told me as he was attacking me why he was attacking me, and he told me afterwards that I shouldn’t expect the police to help me — in fact, he would use them against me.”