Hate-crime suspects arraigned, get lawyers | TheUnion.com

Hate-crime suspects arraigned, get lawyers

Two white men accused of targeting black visitors with racial threats and hurled objects were arraigned on hate-crime charges Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court.

Nicholas A. Underwood, 21, of Nevada City and Craig J. McIlhenny, 22, of Grass Valley were each given court-appointed lawyers. Bail was set at $50,000 each, and they’re scheduled to enter pleas Monday.

Grass Valley police say the two taunted and threatened three black Sacramento-area people waiting for a bus Tuesday at Neal and South Church streets while driving past the victims three times.

The first time, racially charged death threats were issued; the second time, sunflower seeds were tossed; the third time, a full can of soda pop was tossed, nearly striking a black woman’s head, according to police.

The defendants and a third white man not charged in the case stopped after the third pass and approached the victims, but a couple of bystanders intervened, police reported.

Underwood and McIlhenny were arrested a short time later a block away. A loaded handgun was found beneath the driver’s seat of their Honda Civic, police say.

Both men are charged with criminal threats that include special allegations that the threats were racially motivated. The complaint specifies that the black woman was “reasonably in sustained fear of her safety and the safety of her immediate family.”

The defendants also face a misdemeanor threat charge alleging racial discrimination.

Also, Underwood is charged with assault for the can-throwing allegation and for committing a crime in violation of a person’s civil rights.

McIlhenny is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a prior DUI offense, possession of a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm in a public place.

Court records show that Underwood, a parolee, was sentenced to two years in prison for the sexual battery of a teen-age girl in 1999. A rape charge was filed in the case, but later dropped.

Underwood was referred to the California Rehabilitation Center, where convicts receive drug treatment, but he was rejected for the program because his conviction was for a violent crime.

In a later memo urging prison time for Underwood, Deputy District Attorney Chuck O’Rourke called Underwood a manipulator and his family “enabling.”

“Every possible device known to the criminal justice system has been provided to the defendant,” O’Rourke said. “When not in custody he has been contemptuous of every break and order he has been given. When in custody, he has performed like a Boy Scout.”

His deputy public defender, Bill Walker, urged probation for Underwood, noting that while incarcerated, “Mr. Underwood also went above and beyond by helping others understand English and the instructions given to them.”

Walker, who was also appointed to defend Underwood on the new charges, said Thursday he didn’t have enough information to comment on the case. McIlhenny was appointed private lawyer Raymond Shine.

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