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Medford man sentenced for making race-based threats

A Medford man was handed a jail sentence and probation after pleading no contest to a felony intimidation charge alleging he made race-based threats to burn down a man's Talent home.

Joseph James Murdock, 37, who is white, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years of post-prison supervision Wednesday after admitting to felony drug and forgery charges and entering a no-contest plea to a charge of first-degree intimidation, in which he threatened his former neighbor, David VanHook of Talent, because he is black.

On April 15, Murdock and an unknown woman were picking up an RV from the property where Murdock used to live in the 100 block of Third Street in Talent when they came onto VanHook's property next door, according to Deputy District Attorney Jordan Bailey.

During the exchange, Murdock called VanHook the N-word an estimated "12 to 15 times" and threatened VanHook by asking him, "How about we come and burn your F-ing house down?" Bailey said.

Murdock said little following Bailey's account, and expressed little remorse during the hearing. 

"I'm just going to let it lay how it is," Murdock said. "I'm just going to let it be and move on."

No victims appeared at the hearing, but VanHook, head of information technology at an organization that helps people with disabilities, previously said he was heartened by the community's response following the incident.

"I've lived here almost 17 years and I haven't experienced anything even remotely like that," VanHook said in August.

Felony charges to which Murdock pleaded guilty were delivering methamphetamine and first-degree possessing a forged instrument (counterfeit money). He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of second-degree criminal mischief for damaging a car window while it was impounded at Star 24 Hour Towing in Talent. Before pleading, Murdock said it was his vehicle and that he broke the window to get his glasses out of the car.

Murdock faces a 22-month prison sentence if he fails to comply with any terms of his probation, which include no contact with VanHook or his residence, and that he undergo drug and alcohol treatment and possess no intoxicants. 

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Joseph James Murdock