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Two California men charged in Ashland hate crime

Two men from Siskiyou County, California, face felony assault and bias crime charges accusing them of attacking a Black man working at an Ashland gas station.

Scott Corley Sutton, 32, of Yreka, California, and Caleb Nathaniel Pierce, 23, of Fort Jones, California, face felony charges of first-degree bias crime and third-degree assault surrounding a May 13 attack at the ARCO AM/PM gas station at 2380 Ashland St. Police said the men used racist language during the alleged assault.

Sutton and Pierce, who are both white, are accused of attacking a man who was working as a gas station attendant and causing the man injury, according to an Ashland police news release issued Wednesday, and a grand jury indictment filed June 9 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The charge of first-degree bias crime accuses Pierce and Sutton of “causing physical injury” to the victim by punching him, according to the indictment. The misdemeanor second-degree bias crime charge accuses the suspects of subjecting the victim to “offensive physical contact, by punching him.”

The disorderly conduct charge accuses Sutton and Pierce of recklessly causing “a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm by engaging in fighting.”

Ashland police said they withheld the circumstances of the incident until the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office could secure indictments and the suspects could be arrested.

Sutton made his initial appearance in Jackson County Circuit Court Wednesday. At the hearing, Judge Tim Barnack ordered that Sutton appear at all future court hearings and have no contact with the victim.

Jackson County Jail records show that Pierce was booked in the jail Tuesday on warrants charging him with first- and second-degree bias crime, third-degree assault, second-degree disorderly conduct and harassment surrounding the alleged attack. He was booked in the jail and released Wednesday after posting 10% bond on bail set at $25,000.

Pierce is scheduled to be arraigned July 6, court records show. Sutton’s next court appearance is a pretrial conference scheduled for Aug. 9.

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins thanked police chief Tighe O’Meara for his “swift actions” affirming the incident as a legitimate bias crime.

Akins said such crimes will not be tolerated in the city and those who “sow the seeds of division and hatred” will be stopped.

“We will not sanction hatred here. We will protect everyone’s right to live and work peacefully in Ashland,” Akins said. “Everyone has the inherent right to exist without hatred and violence. We will ensure that right to the full extent of the law.”

Ashland reporter Allayana Darrow contributed to this report. Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.