A federal judge Monday sentenced a local white supremacist to eight years for illegal firearms possession, telling the man that he likely got the guns "as part of a racist agenda."
The sentence for Stephen Pattison, a convicted felon who could not have guns, was less than the maximum sentence of 10 years sought by prosecutors but significantly over the sentence recommended by federal guidelines.
The recommended sentence range, which judges do not have to follow if they find exceptional reasons not to do so, was 46 to 57 months.
In the aftermath of racist and other violence, people often ask, "Were there warning signs, were there red flags?," U.S. District Judge David Larimer said Monday in sentencing Pattison. There are many "red flags" that could predict future violence from Pattison, Larimer said.
Pattison, 33, had numerous racist social media postings, many in which he spoke of violence against Black people. While Pattison claimed he took illegal possession of a shotgun and rifle for his family to have — he was returning to prison for violating parole — prosecutors contended that it was evident from his social media that he was inclined to use the guns for racist-fueled violence.
"Your views about white supremacy, Nazi views, racist language — they ... factor in, too, when one considers the purpose for possessing the guns," Larimer said.
Pattison has a history of racist misdemeanor crimes, in which he called individuals racist or ethnic epithets and destroyed their property. He was also convicted in Missouri for domestic violence against a girlfriend, and had absconded from parole when arrested in Monroe County in 2020.
A search of his Hamlin home after the arrest unearthed the firearms and ammunition, and scrutiny of his social media added more proof, beyond his past convictions, of his white supremacist ideology. While in jail after the arrest, he tried to get friends to say the guns were theirs.
Pattison's lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Steven Slawinski, argued that the social media postings showed no intent to commit crimes but were instead claims by Pattison of what he would do if Black Lives Matter or Antifa protesters came to his neighborhood during the 2020 protests.
Larimer responded that the city protests were miles from Pattison's home.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Harvey cited some of Pattison's social media postings in court, one in which Pattison wrote: "Go ahead n***, defund the police so . . . I can just start (expletive) murderin’ you all in a genocidal rate by (expletive) myself. They’ll be callin’ me the angel of death. They’ll be callin’ me the new Josef Mengele."
In imposing the eight-year sentence, Larimer ruled that sentencing guidelines did not accurately weigh the seriousness of Pattison's past racist crimes or his likelihood to commit new crimes.
"Violence seems to be your middle name," Larimer said, noting that Pattison has the word "violence" tattooed on a hand.
Larimer quoted a line from the late renowned Black poet and memoirist Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
"My guess is that's not someone whose works you follow," Larimer said to Pattison, encouraging him to perhaps read Angelou while in prison.
Contact Gary Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at gcraig1.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: White supremacist sentenced in NY over illegal possession of weapons