A Franklin County, Ohio jury deliberated only under one hour on Friday before convicting Michael D. Smith (pictured above) of the hate crime of “ethnic intimidation” for menacing a gay man at a North Side fitness club.
Columbus police say Smith went into the CalFit 10 Gym on two different days during the last week of August, threatening to “shoot up” the North Side gym if his demands to remove gay patrons were not met.
Smith jumped off his treadmill and charged at a man he suspected was gay, 22-year-old Michael D. Harris. Smith ranted and raved, insisting he couldn’t possibly change in the locker room “because all the fags are in there.”
He allegedly kept repeating that he wished he could kill “all the gays.”
After the gym manager emailed Smith to inform him that his membership had been terminated due to behavior.
Smith wrote back in two separate emails that were filled with profanity, threats and homophobic slurs.
In court, Smith’s attorney argued that he’d been “hit on” by members of the gym, and also ogled in the showers. There was no collaborative testimony about such incidents.
Assistant City Attorney Yasmine Almikhi said in her closing argument that it was clear from the evidence that Harris was menaced and why.
“You can’t menace a person because they’re gay,” she said. “It’s illegal.”
Ethnic intimidation is a seldom used charge but it is classified as a hate crime and carries a minimum sentence of 10 days in jail for a conviction.