GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A white woman who used racial slurs as she attacked a black car salesman at a western Michigan dealership has avoided jail, despite a tearful appeal from the victim for her to be given behind bars.
Judge Paul Sullivan on Tuesday sentenced Shelly Hueckel of Nashville, Michigan, to two years of probation. Hueckel was convicted in December of misdemeanor assault but cleared of ethnic intimidation, a felony.
Before the Kent County judge handed down Hueckel's punishment, Terrence Smith tearfully asked that the maximum sentence be imposed. The misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to 93 days in jail.
“I was ... assaulted for no reason and called a (N-word) over and over again at that point, it took every ounce of strength in me to restrain myself from defending myself, and I did it: I stood tall through an incredibly hard moment,” Smith recalled.
Hueckel allegedly struck Smith repeatedly, knocking off his glasses while shouting racial slurs. Hueckel apologized in court. If she violates the terms of her probation she could serve up to 45 days in jail.
“Nothing excuses my actions, but I’m deeply sorry for the pain I have caused in his life,” she said.
During her December trial, an attorney for Hueckel, 47, said she was upset by an appraisal for her car — not Smith's race — at the dealership in Lowell last April. The judge agreed, saying she likely would have had a similar reaction to someone who wasn't African American.
Sullivan said he stood by his decision on the ethnic intimidation charge, which he believes “was the proper decision.” Smith disagreed.
“It was ethnic intimidation. I’m going to say it again: ethnic intimidation,” Smith told the judge Tuesday.