Former Professor Sentenced To State Prison
NBC4 Speaks With Kerri Dunn
POSTED: 6:23 am PST December 15, 2004
UPDATED: 7:04 pm PST December 15, 2004
LOS ANGELES -- A former Claremont McKenna College visiting professor, who spray-painted her car with racist and anti-Semitic slurs and then reported a hate crime on campus, was sentenced today to a year in state prison.
Pomona Superior Court Judge Charles Horan said Kerri Dunn "terrorized" minority students at the college and turned the rest of the students into suspects, adding that her actions could have sparked major racial violence.
He likened her actions to calling in a fake bomb threat, saying it had the effect of terrorizing people.
"At this point in time, all I can say is I'm really sad about what this has cost me, my family and the community of people at Claremont," Dunn told NBC4. "
Along with the state prison term, he ordered Dunn to pay restitution of nearly $20,000 to Claremont College to cover the cost of beefing up security and canceled classes, and an undetermined amount of restitution to the police department for filing a false report.
"From what I saw in the press, I think the judge accurately characterized the way things occurred on campus," Deputy District Attorney Martin Bean said outside the courtroom.
The prosecutor added that it was "an appropriate sentence based on the crimes she committed."
Defense attorney Gary Lincenberg was asked to comment on the judge's characterization of his client's actions.
"The court made a point, in the court's view, it's had a large disruptive effect on campus and had a significant effect," he said. "I don't think he was trying to call her a terrorist."
Dunn's parents traveled from New Jersey to attend the hearing. The 40-year-old defendant's father asked the judge to let him bring his daughter home and get her mental help.
The judge agreed that the defendant has psychological problems that need to be addressed. But the judge noted that Dunn, who underwent a 90-day psychological evaluation before sentencing and had faced a maximum of three years in prison, never admitted to the crime.
It was reported that the assistant prison warden had recommended to the judge that she serve more time behind bars because she refused to accept responsibility for her actions.
She received credit for 134 days in custody, leaving her with 231 more days still to serve.
In a written statement after her Aug. 18 conviction, Dunn's attorney said his client maintained her innocence and planned to appeal.
"I think pretending to be a victim is quite ing, but that's not what we're dealing with here," Dunn told NBC4. "This was no bizarre attempt on my part.
"I am innocent of the charges that I was charged with and ultimately convicted of."
She reported to police and school officials that her car had been spray- painted with racial slurs and the tires slashed March 9 while she was on campus preparing a lecture for an anti-hate forum. She also reported the vandalism to her insurer, according to the prosecutor.
Dunn's report of a hate crime prompted school officials to cancel classes at the five undergraduate Claremont campuses on March 10, and sparked anti- hate crime rallies that drew hundreds of students and captured national headlines.
Dunn claimed to have found her car vandalized about 8 that Tuesday night. But two prosecution witnesses testified that they saw Dunn drive her gold- colored Honda Civic into the college parking lot about 8 p.m. with the graffiti already on it.
"They saw her get out of her car, bend down next to two of the tires and they heard a hissing noise as she bent down to each tire," Bean said.
Dunn called her auto insurer the next morning to report the damage and property supposedly taken from her car, the prosecutor said. Dunn's attorney had argued that no insurance claim was ever made.
"The jurors convicted because the court did not allow them to hear this important and uncontradicted testimony," Lincenberg said after his client's conviction.
As for the false police report charge, the defense lawyer claimed earlier that a Claremont College electrician "clearly identified a man who should have been the primary suspect in the vandalism."
Dunn was charged April 26 with two felony counts of insurance fraud and the misdemeanor count of a false police report. Jurors convicted her on lesser charges of attempted insurance fraud, along with the misdemeanor count.
Court records show that Dunn was arrested three times in 1999 and 2000.
She paid $75 in fines after being arrested in Nebraska in September 1999 and charged with driving without a license and having fictitious plates on her car.
A case stemming from a Dec. 31, 1999, arrest for shoplifting was dismissed after Dunn paid court costs. She was arrested again in a shoplifting case on Sept. 29, 2000, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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