Nova Scotia

Cross-burning brother gets 2 months in jail

Justin Rehberg, the second of two brothers convicted of inciting hatred after burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple in Windsor, N.S., has been sentenced to two months in jail for his part in the hate crime.

The second of two brothers who burned a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple in Windsor, N.S., has been sentenced to two months in jail.

Justin Rehberg, 20, was sentenced in a Windsor courtroom for criminal harassment and inciting racial hatred. He will be on probation for 30 months and is barred from owning firearms for 10 years.

Rehberg was composed during the sentencing when Justice Claudine MacDonald asked if he had anything to say.

"I want to say I'm sorry," Rehberg told the court. "I screwed up. It was a horrible mistake. It will never happen again."

He was also ordered to have no contact with the family of Shayne Howe and Michelle Lyon — the couple who woke up last Feb. 21 to find a two-metre-high wooden cross burning on their front lawn.

Howe and Lyon were not in court on Tuesday.

On Monday, Rehberg's older brother, Nathan, was sentenced to four months in jail for inciting hatred and to six months in jail for criminal harassment. The sentences are to be served concurrently, and with credit for time already spent in custody, he will spend two more months in jail.

'Victimized the family'

The brothers were convicted separately in November.

In handing down her sentence, MacDonald said the fear created by the cross-burning had a major impact on Howe, Lyon and their children. Howe lost his job and Lyon's daughter temporarily dropped out of school and suffered nightmares.

"To act the way you did, to use the symbol of hate … you victimized the family and you had an impact on the community at large," MacDonald said.

Defence attorney Chris Manning told the court the cross-burning was a life-changing event for Justin Rehberg, and he had not taken drugs or had any alcohol since the incident last February.

Manning also argued that Justin, unlike his older brother, had almost immediately admitted his guilt for his role in the cross-burning and then co-operated with the police investigation.

MacDonald accepted the two-month sentence, a joint recommendation by Manning and Crown prosecutor Darrell Carmichael.

"I would have liked to have seen tougher sentences for both of them, but one must live with what one gets," Carmichael said outside court.

"I'm more sympathetic to Justin. He conducted himself in the aftermath more responsibly than Nathan did. Nathan denied responsibility until he was actually convicted of it."

Carmichael has said the cases were the first involving a cross-burning in Canada.

"I hope this will be the last, as well as the first," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press