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Marin DA: Voicemail to city leaders was ‘racist, offensive, disgusting,’ but not illegal

No charges will be filed against a man who left racist voicemails in May on a San Anselmo town administration phone line, according to Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli.

Frugoli announced the decision Tuesday regarding what she described as a hate incident, in which the caller left three messages using racist language to describe his displeasure with the police department and San Anselmo Mayor Brian Colbert, who is Black.

Frugoli said in a video posted on the DA’s website:

The use of racist language is offensive and disgusting. … That kind of hate has no place in our society, and it has no place in Marin County. That is my personal opinion.”

Frugoli added:

As your District Attorney, I also have a professional responsibility to oversee legal opinions on thousands of cases every year following the strict guidelines of California law. My office has found that no laws were broken in this case.”

The caller left identifying details in the messages and was arrested shortly afterward on suspicion of making criminal threats and served two days in jail.

Frugoli said in a statement released Tuesday that prosecutors and an ad hoc committee on hate crimes vetted the evidence and determined the incident did not qualify as a hate crime.

The statement provided a link on the District Attorney’s website that details the differences between a hate crime and a hate incident.

The statement noted that the U.S. Constitution allows hate speech, as long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others.

Acts such as insults, name-calling, display of hate materials on private property, display of hate material that don’t result in property damage, and distribution of hate messages in public places are considered hate incidents.

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