A former Fox Lake man today was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 3 years 1 month in a federal penitentiary for holding a knife to the throat of an African-American teenager and threatening her life in a hate-crime attack.
Shaun L. Derifield, 23, a member of the white supremacist group, the Lake County Skinheads, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay a $6,000 fine in connection with the August 2002 incident during a hearing this morning in U.S. District Court, Chicago.
U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said he thought the 37-month sentence to be a light one, considering the crime, but he was constrained by federal sentencing guidelines. “We can’t as a country afford to have these things occur,” Castillo said.
The judge also recommended that Derifield receive drug abuse treatment while incarcerated, and made the treatment a mandatory condition of the man’s supervised release.
Three of Derifield’s four victims — the girl, Deona Williams, and her twin brothers Tywon and Juwon Williams — were in court today with their mother, Phyllis Williams.
The defendant turned to the family, apologized and said he would have his tattoos removed. A swastika and other white supremacist symbols cover much of his upper body. “I’ve learned a lot from this, that hate is wrong,” Derifield said.
His defense attorney, Herb Abrams, told the court Derifield, as a teenager, had moved into the home of a white supremacist couple after his family relocated from Fox Lake to South Dakota, and he was “indoctrinated” by them.
Phyllis Williams told the court her daughter would never get over the trauma of the attack. “I have never taught my daughter color. All I’ve ever taught her is to see a person,” she said.
After the hearing, the mother said a newspaper photo last week of Derifield in his tattoos convinced her to move her family from Fox Lake.
Deona Williams, who was 15 at the time, her 16-year-old brothers and a 16-year-old female friend were walking home from a Grant Community High School football game the night of Aug. 30, 2002, when Derifield and two other men confronted them. They screamed racial epithets and threatened them.
The teens ran, and their attackers caught up with Deona. One of them, Derifield, held a knife to her throat.
Local police working with federal authorities subsequently arrested Derifield and his two accomplices, Harley Hermes, 21, of Glenview and formerly of Fox Lake, and Michael J. Canlas, 18, of Fox Lake.
Derifield and Hermes pleaded guilty in August and September to federal civil rights and fair housing violations. Last week, Hermes was sentenced to 1 year 8 months in a federal prison. Canlas pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony mob action in February and spent 6 months in jail.