A white North Carolina man was convicted of a crime of violating the Fair Housing Act of threatening a black family because of their race, according to a press release from the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The Justice Department announced that 34-year-old Douglas Matthew Gurkins has been sentenced to just over two years (28 months) in prison. This is followed by a 3-year custodial release for using threats of violence against a black family based on the race of family members he hired. The penalty is a fraction of the maximum penalty he has faced, which is 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.
GURKINS SR, DOUGLAS MATTHEW mug shot 08/06/2018 Pitt County, North Carolina https://t.co/J6oewovj6f pic.twitter.com/8D61EH79Uh
– Busted NC Mugshots (@NMugshots) August 6, 2018
"Part of what makes the United States free is the guarantee that we can live anywhere in this country, regardless of the color of our skin and without murderous threats to us and our children," said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for Civil rights in a written declaration. “This defendant terrorized an entire family by threatening to kill African American parents and their four children and others for their race. This type of cruel terror has no place in the United States, and the US Department of Justice will continue to be vigilant when it comes to prosecuting someone who harms family housing rights. "
Gurkins had already pleaded guilty to criminal interference with the Fair Housing Act on August 6, 2020. At his hearing, he admitted that almost 6 years ago, in December 2014, he drove to the home of a black family and yelled at them with racist slurs. He then told the family that they did not belong to their home and that Gurkins threatened to shoot the family, which included four underage children. He also threatened to shoot any other black man who came onto the property.
The family moved out of the neighborhood a few days after the incident. Gurkins continued this type of activity for the next four years with two other black families who lived in the same neighborhood.
“This defendant threatened the citizens of that district – a mother and her four children – because of their race. This is not who we are as Americans and prejudice of any kind is unbearable, ”said US attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina. "The defendant's threats are against the law designed to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all of us, and I am delighted that we were able to take this matter to federal court to defend these rights and to work with this mother and her children to ensure that justice is guaranteed. "
"There is no way to undo the damage Gurkins did to these families through his hateful, disgusting, and violent behavior," said Robert R. Wells, FBI special envoy in North Carolina. "The FBI hopes today's prison sentence can give them a sense of comfort. No one should ever be attacked or threatened for their skin color, especially not at home."