Racist Jailed for Threats Against Black Clergy Leader

Jailed: Donna Marie Upson, 22, shouts at photographers as she is led away from Dartmouth provincial court on Wednesday.

By Davene Jeffrey / Staff Reporter
The Halifax Herald Limited
Thursday, July 6, 2000

A Ku Klux Klan member has been sentenced to two years in prison for threatening the pastor of a predominantly black Dartmouth congregation in mid-April.

Donna Marie Upson, 22, was sentenced Wednesday in Dartmouth provincial court for uttering threats to kill or harm Rev. Elias Mutale, to destroy property at Victoria Road United Baptist Church and to kill black people.

Moments before her sentence was delivered, Ms. Upson pleaded with Judge Flora Buchan to give her a short sentence and treatment for her problem with anger.

"To lock me up would just irritate me more and not help me," the Ontario woman told the court.

But Judge Buchan did not order a period of probation or counselling for Ms. Upson.

Ms. Upson, who has several previous convictions for hate-related offences, has ignored previous court orders that she seek anger-management counselling.

"Unless her beliefs are renounced, I believe there is no hope for rehabilitation," Judge Buchan said.

Ms. Upson came to Nova Scotia on a mission to rid churches of blacks, Judge Buchan said.

She had already visited several churches, spreading her views, when she walked into Victoria Road United Baptist Church.

Not knowing that the church has a predominantly black congregation, she was surprised when she met Mr. Mutale, who is black.

Although Mr. Mutale tried to discuss Ms. Upson's views with her, the discussion quickly broke down, with Ms. Upson calling him names and and using racial epithets.

A similar incident occurred the following day, when Ms. Upson returned to the church.

"I know what I did seemed bad in your eyes. I know, even though I did not perceive what I did was threatening . . . you seen it as threatening," Ms. Upson told the court.

"I know that jail time is inevitable. I feel that a large sentence would do more damage than good because I do have a temper. To lock me up is just going to make my temper worse."

During a hearing two weeks ago, an expert on hate-related crime, Dr. Karen Mock, national director of B'nai Brith's League for Human Rights,testified that Ms. Upson is a typical example of a racist organization recruit.

Ms. Upson was a social and academic outcast looking to blame others for her lot in life when she fell in with racist skinheads, the court has been told.

She is now a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and the Nationalist Party.

A presentence report prepared for Wednesday's hearing stated that Ms. Upson's white supremacist beliefs are ingrained.

She is so outspoken about them that she has had to be kept segregated from the rest of the female prisoners at the Halifax Correctional Centre, the court was told.

Ms. Upson has been in custody since her arrest in mid-April.

As she was led away by sherriff's deputies following her sentencing Ms. Upson told press photographers, "That which doesn't destroy me, will make me stronger."

Before her arrest, Ms. Upson had been living in parking garages. No local shelters would let her in because of her views.

Her beliefs have also lead to a falling out with her lawyer Ken Greer.

Mr. Greer notified the court Wednesday that he would not longer be representing Ms. Upson.

Shortly after, Ms. Upson explained that she has had conflicts with her lawyer.

He was "constantly rude and obnoxious towards me," she said.

But Judge Buchan told Ms. Upson she believed Mr. Greer had done a "proper" job as her lawyer.

Copyright 2000 The Halifax Herald Limited

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