DOYLESTOWN >> A 19-year-old man who made racist and threatening comments on a social media video in July pleaded guilty on March 24 to harassment and was ordered to undergo racial sensitivity training, an arrangement made by the victim’s family and the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.
Andrew James Smith, of Chalfont, was also sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Diane E. Gibbons to a year of probation, mental health assessments and continued racial sensitivity training at The Peace Center in Langhorne and at Good Shepard Mediation in Philadelphia. Both programs encourage peace, reconciliation, and social justice to resolve conflicts.
Gibbons also ordered Smith to stay off social media, have no contact with the victims or their families and write two essays, one on slavery and racial prejudice in America and the other on ethnic and racial cleansing in other parts of the world.
Smith posted the video in late July, making racist and threatening comments directed at a juvenile female and another victim.
In the video, Smith indicated he had a firearm, but no firearm was ever found during a search of his residence and the automobiles he had access to.
In an impact statement, the victim said the threats and comments made her afraid for her life and made her not want to go outside.
In court, her parents said their daughter’s life was forever changed by the events of July, but they still wanted Smith to be rehabilitated rather than jailed.
District Attorney Matt Weintraub said he admired the family "for their grace in handling this entire situation.
“People have a right to freedom of speech and to their own beliefs, no matter how vulgar, distasteful, or racist,” Weintraub said. “But when one targets another with threats because of the color of their skin, it’s criminal. We will prosecute people who weaponize social media to threaten and harass others."
Prior to his March 24 court appearance, Smith had undergone two days of racial sensitivity training at The Peace Center, and the victim’s family and the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office recommended he continue that training as part of his sentence.
“This has to be a healing moment for our county,” Gibbons said, praising the victim and the victim’s family for their compassion and understanding.
The case was investigated by Bucks County Detectives and the Central Bucks Regional Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jovin Jose.