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Niagara County DA announces guilty plea in hate crime case


Fri, Feb 17th 2023 03:10 pm

Submitted by the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office

Niagara County District Attorney Brian D. Seaman announced Howard J. Murphy, age 61, of the Town of Niagara, entered a guilty plea in County Court to the crime of criminal mischief in the second degree, as a hate crime. Murphy admitted to vandalizing a neighbor’s fence on May 16, 2022, by spraypainting onto it a violent message containing a racial slur. The incident occurred just two days after the mass shooting at Topps in Buffalo.

“This was not just a property crime,” Seaman said. “This was a hate crime meant to terrorize a family. To have someone deliver that message, in the climate created by the events of two days before, was a traumatic event for this family. They were in real fear that the defendant, or someone else, would take action along the lines of the message this defendant painted on their fence.”

Murphy returns to court on April 19 to be sentenced by County Court Judge Caroline Wojtaszek, who could send Murphy to state prison for as long as 2-1/3 to 7 years.

“When this defendant is sentenced, we will urge the judge to sentence him not just for vandalism, but for the fear-inducing hate crime that he committed and plead guilty to,” Seaman said.

He added, “I would like to commend the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, the Town of Niagara Police Department, and Assistant District Attorney Susan Bjornholm of my office for their work on this case. They immediately recognized the seriousness of this matter, and made solving and prosecuting this case their highest priority. Identifying who did this, and calling him to account quickly, sent a clear message to the community.”

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