The Vancouver City Attorney’s Office has decided it will not pursue criminal charges against Hanif M. Collins – a barbershop owner who was accused in September of threatening, spitting on and using derogatory names toward LGBTQ demonstrators – nor one of the demonstrators.
Collins was originally charged in Clark County Superior Court and was facing three counts of malicious harassment, a hate crime in Washington. However, the felony allegations were dropped, and the case was referred to Clark County District Court.
The city attorney’s office said Friday that it reviewed all evidence to evaluate the possibility of bringing misdemeanor charges against Collins, as well as the reporting party, Richard Hassler.
A consideration in deciding not to bring charges against either of the involved people was the availability and potential strength of legal defenses on both sides of the case, according to the attorney’s office. Those defenses include the Fifth Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination, and, second, arguments about who provoked the altercation.
Collins’ testimony would have been necessary in the prosecution of Hassler, and vice versa.
“Each, however, would have had the right to remain silent and not testify to avoid self-incrimination, which would have undermined our office’s ability to prove either case,” the attorney’s office said.
Vancouver police were called about 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 20 for a reported disturbance in the area of Sixth and Main streets. Hassler reported to police that he and several others were protesting outside a church when Collins confronted him. In an Instagram post, Collins said he was assaulted by two men associated with a protest.
A widely viewed video of the altercation was informative but failed to present the entire story, according to the city.
Ultimately, prosecutors weren’t assured that they would be able to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the part of either person.
The prosecutor’s “declining to initiate criminal charges should not be construed as approval of the conduct originally suspected by police, nor a suggestion that probable cause was lacking at any time,” the attorney’s office said.