No jail time for woman who hurled racist slurs during assault


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Barry County woman who used racist slurs as she assaulted a Lowell car salesman last year was not sentenced to any jail time.

Shelly Hueckel, 47, of Nashville, was ordered on Tuesday to serve two years of probation for assault.

In April 2019, she went to Betten Baker GMC in Lowell, where employee Terrance Smith gave her a trade-in value for her car. She wasn’t happy about the dollar amount, though, and started berating him. She then used the N-word toward Smith, who is African American, and backhanded him.

In a tearful plea to the judge Tuesday, Smith asked that Hueckel receive the maximum sentence.

“I was then assaulted for no reason and called a (N-word) over and over again at that point, I took every ounce of strength in me to restrain myself from defending myself, and I did it: I stood tall through an incredibly hard moment,” Smith recalled.

Hueckel struck Smith repeatedly, knocking off his glasses while shouting racial slurs.

She was charged with ethnic intimidation, but in a bench trial last year, Judge Paul Sullivan found her not guilty of the felony while convicting her of the misdemeanor assault charge. The verdict outraged some, including the local chapter of the NAACP and Smith himself.

“It was ethnic intimidation. I’m going to say it again: ethnic intimidation,” Smith told the judge. “I have to raise a 6-year-old son in a place where a person can degrade me and physically assault me. … I pray I become the happy-go-lucky person prior to this incident, this aftermath, I pray I become the husband and dad that I once was.”

Hueckel made a brief statement.

“Nothing excuses my actions, but I’m deeply sorry for the pain I have caused in his life,” she said.

Sullivan stood by his decision on the ethnic intimidation charge.

“People can disagree with me about it, lawyers can disagree with me about it, that’s fine, but it is a very technical statute,” he said. “I stand by my decision which I believe was the proper decision.”

He also said the fact that Hueckel has had mental health treatment for more than two decades explains her actions, though it does not excuse them.

“This was clearly an assault and battery. You had no right to do what you did. You did it in a very bad way, you were offensive not just physically but verbally,” Sullivan told Hueckel. “I don’t think sending you out jail right today is something that needs to be done. I’m more interested in making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

If Hueckel violates the terms of her probation over the next two years, she could spend up to 45 days in jail.

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