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Six-month sentence for man convicted in cross-burning
One of two brothers convicted of inciting hatred after burning a cross on the front yard of the home of an interracial Nova Scotia couple has received a six-month jail sentence.
Nathan Rehberg, 21, will serve only two months, however, after Supreme Court Judge John Murphy gave him credit for time served.
The sentencing on Monday morning followed his November conviction of inciting racial hatred and criminal harassment for the cross-burning incident.
The Crown had sought a two-year jail sentence while the defence argued for a conditional sentence.
Speaking in the Kentville, N.S. court prior to his sentencing on Monday, Rehberg said he was sorry and "will never forgive himself" for what he did.
He added he was "very, very scared . . . of going to jail."
He insisted he is not racist, that the entire incident was a result of being drunk.
"We are all one, there is no black, there is no white, there is no Chinese, we are all one," Rehberg said outside of court.
Rehberg said he's looking at his life "from another angle" since the incident.
The victims, Shayne Howe, who is black, and Michelle Lyon, who is white, said they hoped Rehberg learned something from the experience.
"The judge thought that was the best sentence for him and I just hope he learned what he did was wrong and that he grows up," Howe told reporters.
"I think Nathan has learned a lot from this and . . . he did apologize and I felt bad for him," Lyon added.
However, the Crown was not satisfied with the sentence, having asked for two years.
"As far as we know there's never been a cross-burning case in Canada before and the sentence that was imposed today will be a benchmark for such sentences," Crown prosecutor Darrell Carmichael said.
Younger brother Justin Rehberg, 20, was convicted of inciting racial hatred for the same incident. Justin will be sentenced on Tuesday. Both men are from Avondale, N.S.
The cross reportedly had a noose slung around it.
During the trial, Supreme Court Justice John Murphy said he accepted the Crown's version of the facts.
According to that description, Nathan Rehberg used a lighter to ignite the 2.5-metre wooden cross, which had been doused in an accelerant.
Testimony from Justin Rehberg convinced Murphy of the fact that the cross was built by Nathan, then dragged to the couple's home.
Murphy also accepted the testimony of Howe's 18-year-old daughter Ashley, who told the court she saw the flaming cross and heard someone yelling racist slurs from the darkness.
"The incident engendered fear... and I'm satisfied that (the fear) was reasonable," Murphy said in his ruling at the time.
He said the circumstances "give rise to the inevitable inference that racism was involved."
Murphy said the criminal harassment conviction against Nathan Rehberg was also justified, because his actions caused the teen and her parents to be "appalled and terrified."
There were four other children in the house at the time of the incident but Murphy said it wasn't clear whether they were old enough to comprehend what was going on. One of the kids was just two years old.
Nathan Rehberg originally pleaded not guilty to the two charges during his two-day, judge-only trial. He was also charged with uttering threats and mischief, but those charges were later dropped.
After being convicted, Nathan Rehberg had said he planned to "be a man" when dealing with his sentence.
"I'm nervous about what I'm going to get, but whatever it is, I deserve it," Rehberg told reporters outside the court.
"I did the crimes so I got to do the time. It wasn't a racist act, but there was a lot of evidence to make it look like it was. I'm sorry if it was ... I'm going to be a man and face the consequences."
Nathan Rehberg earlier said the decision to build and burn the cross was in retaliation for comments Howe had allegedly made, suggesting the two men had a sexually transmitted disease.
After the incident, Howe and Lyon said they were moving from the area. But an outpouring of public support convinced them to rethink the decision.