Cross-burner gets 2 more months jail time

One of two brothers convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple in Windsor, N.S., will stay in jail two more months for his involvement in the hate crime.

Nathan Rehberg convicted of hate crime, harassment

One of two brothers convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple in Windsor, N.S., will stay in jail two more months for his involvement in the hate crime.

On a conviction of inciting racial hatred, Nathan Rehberg, 21, was sentenced in a Kentville courtroom Monday to four months plus one day — time he's already served.

On a charge of criminal harassment, Rehberg was sentenced to six months in jail. With credit for time in remand, he will serve two months in jail and then get probation, with a requirement to perform 50 hours of community service.

Rehberg and his brother Justin, 20, were convicted separately in November.

In sentencing arguments, Crown lawyer Darrell Carmichael asked the judge for a two-year federal jail term on the hate-crime conviction, calling what the brothers did "a sensational message of racial hatred."

Carmichael told the court "a Pandora's box of evil was opened" when they burned the cross Feb. 21, 2010, in front of the home of Shayne Howe, who is black, and Michelle Lyon, who is white.

Defence lawyer Luke Craggs argued the 4½ to five months his client spent in custody after his arrest was enough punishment. He suggested if his client was to spend more time in jail, a 90-day sentence to be served on weekends would be appropriate.

Craggs said his client's life was threatened while he was in jail because other inmates knew what he had done.

A conviction for public incitement of hatred carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, while a criminal harassment conviction carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

A 'careless mistake'

Nathan Rehberg spoke to the judge during the sentencing, saying he was sorry to everyone — especially to the couple he victimized. Sobbing as he spoke, Rehberg called the crime "a stupid, careless mistake that I will never forgive myself for."

Once he has served his sentence, Rehberg will be under conditions not to consume alcohol or other intoxicants for 32 months, and have no contact with the victims of his crime.

Outside court, Shayne Howe said all that mattered was the apology.

The Canadian Jewish Congress issued a statement applauding the sentence.

"We commend the Nova Scotia courts for sending a strong message that reflects Canadian society's revulsion against hate-motivated crimes. This has been a precedent-setting case, the first time in Canada that cross-burning has been recognized for what it is — a hate crime. The sentence is duly appropriate," said CEO Bernie Farber.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Shayne Howe, Michelle Lyon and their children.  We hope that today's sentence brings them both comfort and strength," Farber added. 

Justin Rehberg will be sentenced Tuesday.