John Blayne Vangastel, 37, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, pleaded guilty today in the District Court of Oregon to one count of using threats of force to injure, intimidate and interfere with his neighbors in the enjoyment of their housing rights because they are a family of Vietnamese descent.
According to court documents, on the evening of Dec. 30, 2015, Vangastel, who had been living next door to a family of Vietnamese descent for approximately three months, entered the family’s property without permission. Vangastel admitted that he then forcibly blocked their front commercial gate so that family members could not park their vehicles on their property after returning from work. When one of the family members told Vangastel to let go of the gate and get off of the family’s property, Vangastel told the family member to “push [him] off the property.” He then raised his hand and balled up his fist as though he was going to assault one of the female family members. Vangastel further admitted that he then repeatedly tried to instigate a fight with the rest of the family, threatening to hit them and making comments like, “You are trash;” “You are not even white;” and “You smell like salmon-fish.” He also told the family something to the effect of, “I’ll beat you because you are Asian,” and “You [expletive] Vietnamese – you don’t deserve to live here.”
The incident was the culmination of Vangastel’s repeated intimidation of his neighbors, who had lived at their residence for 20 years without incident. As a result of Vangastel’s conduct, the family became so fearful that they moved out of their home.
“This case exemplifies the powerfully negative impact of bigotry and xenophobia,” said Oregon’s U.S. Attorney, Billy J. Williams. “It is the moral obligation of every citizen to promote tolerance and diversity in our communities so that no one is subjected to intimidation or assault because of their heritage. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, with our partners at the Civil Rights Division, are dedicated to protecting the civil rights of all Oregonians. We will vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes to obtain justice for victims of unlawful discrimination.”
“Our country guarantees all people the right to live in their homes without fearing violence or intimidation because of their national origin,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Threatening force against people because of where they or their relatives come from violates our civil rights laws and offends our values of human dignity, decency and respect. As this conviction shows, the Department of Justice will continue to aggressively and effectively prosecute hate crimes.”
A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Portland Division’s Medford Resident Agency in cooperation with the Oregon State Police and the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzgerald of the District of Oregon and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.