NORTHMOOR, Mo. -- A neighborhood barbecue sparked a brawl that prompts the Platte County Prosecutor to charge a man with a hate crime. Twenty-seven-year-old Albert Strutton Jr. is accused of beating another man because he's black. Strutton's family claims the charges are a big misunderstanding.
The gathering at the family's home more than two weeks ago was supposed to be a celebration to welcome home Strutton Jr. He had just been paroled after 10 years behind bars. Instead, the prosecutor says Strutton's actions at that party may get him up to 15 more years in prison.
"He's not a hate crime person," said the suspect's sister, Katrina Lile. "He's just real proud of being white Albert Strutton."
Lile was at the family gathering. She says her father wasn't invited because he and her brother don't get along. But when he showed up anyway, she says a family squabble started.
"They were all lies because of the past or whatever," she explained. "We've gotten it all resolved as a family issue. It's not a hate crime."
But Eric Zahnd says this is the first hate crime he's ever charged in his 10 years as Platte County Prosecuting Attorney.
According to court documents, Strutton Jr. beat his father after Albert Srutton Sr. complimented a neighbor at the cook out, calling him a hard worker. After punching his father, Strutton Jr. also attacked the neighbor, who is black.
"The allegations are he was using racial epithets during both of these attacks including the one on his own father, saying that he was an N-lover," Zahnd said. "He was yelling racial epithets at the other man as well."
Lile says she doesn't recall her brother using the N-word during the barbecue. And she denies witness claims that her brother is a skinhead with Nazi tattoos.
"No he doesn't hate black people," Lile said. "But in that environment you've got to separate yourself and your color stays together. It's nothing hate crime, it's either that or you fight in there because if you're not white you're not right or whatever. So, it's just that he's had to stick with his own kind."
Court documents say Strutton Jr. also threatened to slit another party-goer's throat and kill his family.
He was taken into custody on a parole violation and is being held on $100,000 cash bond.
Strutton Jr. is being charged as a persistent offender because of his criminal history, which includes convictions for assaulting a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and felony forgery. That, combined with the hate crime charges means he now faces up to 15 years in prison for the attack on his father, and seven years behind bars for beating the neighbor.