CHARLESTON -- A woman accused of using a racial epithet against a man and threatening to "hang him from a tree and kill him" pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge.
Diana C. Yamamoto admitted using the epithet and threatening the black man during a confrontation in Charleston on Aug. 8, 2016.
With the agreement that was reached in her case, Yamamoto, 55, for whom court records list an address of 2004 11th St., Charleston, was placed on probation for two years.
Records in the case say the incident took place near Yamamoto's residence and began because her son and daughter thought the man and others were "doing a drug deal."
The hate crime charge was a felony offense that also could have resulted a prison sentence of two to five years.
The charge accused Yamamoto of committing disorderly conduct because of the "real or perceived" race of the man she allegedly threatened. Case records list Yamamoto's race as white.
Coles County Assistant State's Attorney Rob Scales, who prosecuted the case, said a hate crime charge is "always serious" and the language Yamamoto reportedly used is "not acceptable."
He explained, however, that state law calls for probation for the level of offense with which Yamamoto was charged unless there are factors that warrant prison time.
Yamamoto had a minimal criminal record, limited to traffic offenses, Scales also said.
He added that Yamamoto was already receiving counseling so that wasn't included as a probation requirement in her sentence.
The counseling followed a psychologist's court-ordered examination that addressed Yamamoto's mental fitness for trial, Scales said.
The evaluation concluded that she was mentally fit for trial, meaning she understood the charge against her and she was able to help with her defense.
Assistant Public Defender Terese Matthews, who represented Yamamoto, said she also thought the outcome was appropriate "based on her lack of significant criminal history."
Matthews declined to comment on any counseling Yamamoto's receiving, citing privacy issues.
Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien sentenced Yamamato based on the terms of a plea agreement the two attorneys recommended.
Probation terms included payment of about $1,100 in fines and court fees and about six months of jail time that was stayed.
That means Yamamoto won't have to serve the jail sentence now but some or all of it could be ordered later if she violates any of her other probation requirements.