Sunday, July 20, 2003

Man convicted of intimidation amid strike after mailing raccoon head

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - A jury has convicted a man of intimidation for mailing a raccoon head to a principal involved in contract talks with striking teachers.

Donald Sullivan, 52, was convicted Friday of mailing the raccoon head to the principal of suburban Maple Heights High School, where Sullivan's wife was on strike against the district.

He testified that he scooped up a dead raccoon from the roadside last October, cut off its head, sealed the head in a plastic bag, boxed it up and mailed it to Deborah Houchins.

Sullivan, former band director at Bedford High School, said he did not intend to frighten or intimidate Houchins. He said he wanted to send a strike-related message: "This whole thing stinks."

Jurors deliberated for one hour before rejecting Sullivan's argument, finding him guilty of one felony charge of intimidation.

He will be sentenced next month by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kenneth Callahan, who has the option of placing Sullivan on probation.

The raccoon head, a long-used symbol of racial hatred, raised the specter of racism in the two-month strike and led to community protests. The grand jury rejected a racial-intimidation indictment.

Sullivan, who is white, apologized to Houchins from the witness stand and said his actions were not motivated by racism. He said he never met Houchins, who is black, before the trial began Wednesday.

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