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Closing arguments made in Maui McDonald’s racial slur case

WAILUKU >>Attorneys have made their closing arguments in the case of a Maui resident accused of using a racial slur while harassing two teenagers earlier this year at a McDonald’s.

Antonio Gimbernat is accused of yelling a racist slur at one of the teens, who is African-American. He is accused of telling the teen he shouldn’t be with a white girl.

Gimbernat’s attorney agreed with prosecutors that his client’s speech in February was offensive, but said his words didn’t amount to a crime, The Maui News reported Tuesday.

Deputy Prosecutor Joshua Kent, however, said the 49-year-old Gimbernat yelled words that “were so offensive it created fear, shock and a genuine concern that the defendant was going to hurt” the teenagers.

“I was shaken. I was frozen in fear,” Antonio Mason, 16, said. “I didn’t move for a few seconds. I really thought he was going to hit me.”

Gimbernat pleaded not guilty to harassment and disorderly conduct.

“In this case, the state is prosecuting Mr. Gimbernat for his words, which are offensive but do not reach the level of a criminal act,” Gimbernat’s attorney Jeffrey Wolfenbarger said. “At most, it’s an insult. … Even though the two teenagers said they believed he was going to assault them, that’s not enough.”

Mason recorded the incident on his cellphone and posted it online where it received tens of thousands of views. That video and a surveillance video without sound from the restaurant were played during the trial Friday.

Wailuku Judge Kelsey Kawano is scheduled to make a ruling Dec. 15.

“All they wanted to do was enjoy an evening together with a nice meal,” Kent said. “What is clear is the defendant’s attention was drawn to them solely on factors out of their control — the color of their skin. … In this case, the defendant reached far beyond constitutional protections.”

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