DURHAM — A prosecutor is seeking jail time for an Oshawa man convicted of mischief for scrawling anti-Muslim graffiti at public transit stops in the region.
Joseph Porco’s actions — he repeatedly used a black marker to write “No More Muslims” on Durham Region Transit bus shelters and benches — were a “very public declaration of hate,” Crown attorney George Hendry said during a sentencing hearing Monday afternoon in Oshawa.
“The words that were used were ugly and motivated by hate,” Hendry said in suggesting a jail sentence of four to six months for the 56-year-old Porco.
“There is no place for this level of racism,” Hendry said. “There is no place for this level of hate in our community.”
Porco was caught “red-handed” in May of 2017 by police conducting surveillance after more than a dozen incidents of anti-Muslim graffiti being scrawled on DRT stops, Hendry said. Police investigated 15 cases of graffiti between Feb. 25 and March 30 across Durham in Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa.
Porco, who was not charged with a hate crime and has pleaded guilty to mischief, was apparently disgruntled at being treated “unfairly,” court heard.
Although he has penned a letter apologizing for committing the act, he seems not to realize it was his message, not acts of vandalism that’s at issue in the case, Hendry said during the Sept. 18 hearing.
“He doesn’t get the real damage he caused,” Hendry said. “The damage is not to the shelters or the benches. It’s really to the community.”
Monday Porco told Ontario Court Justice Ferhan Javed he regrets his actions.
“I just want to go on with my life. I’m sorry for what I did,” Porco said. “It won’t happen again.”
Defence lawyer Paul Affleck said Porco’s offences merit a term of house arrest rather than time in jail. The incidents have been widely publicized and a simple internet search reveals Porco’s involvement, he said.
“He has been publicly admonished and publicly embarrassed by his own actions,” Affleck said. “Mr. Porco has suffered.”
A conditional sentence of six months would not be “insignificant,” Affleck suggested.
“House arrest for six months is no easy feat,” he said.
Justice Javed is to rule on the sentence Thursday, Sept. 21.