State vs. Read: Malicious Harassment

David L. Hudson Jr. First Amendment Scholar

First Amendment scholar, David L. Hudson Jr., wrote on the State vs. Read case, which dealt with First Amendment rights, racial slurs, and malicious harassment.

In May of 2009, Caucasian, male, Charles Raymond Read was accused of threatening and committing malicious harassment after lashing out in anger and using racial slurs Ethiopian, female, Saba Zewdu.

The issue started when Mrs. and Mr. Read returned to their vehicle after dinner at the Elliott Bay Marina, in Seattle, to find they had been ticketed for using two parking spaces at the Marina. After hearing from a valet that he had been ticketed by Zewdu, who was a parking attendant at  Marina, Read approached Zewdu and exclaimed, “you f***ing Euthiopian”. Zewdu, feeling threatened by Read’s remark dialed 911. Read was arrested at put on trial.

During trial, the defendant (Read) presented to the court that he was protected to use racial slurs by the the First Amendment. Furthermore, Read argued that since he did not express a true threat towards Zewdu he could not be convicted of malicious harassment. However, while on appeal the court ruled that the law defines “malicious harassment” as “intentionally threatening another person because of that person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or physical or sensory handicap.” Through investigation, it was reported that Read become more angry when he learned that Zewdu was Ethiopian. By the end of the trial, Read was sentenced for 30-days in jail for malicious harassment

Text Citation: Hudson, David L., Jr. “Harassment Conviction over Racial Slurs Upheld.” First Amendment Center. First Amendment Center, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2015. <>.

Image Citation: Hudson, David L., Jr. “David L. Hudson Jr. – Bio.” David L. Hudson Jr. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2015. <>.


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