St. Thomas’ Christopher Rice Charged With Hate Crimes After Couple Threatened
ARRESTED ON ST. THOMAS AND RELEASED: CHRISTOPHER RICE
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A St. Thomas man faces up to 75 years in prison after allegedly harassing and threatening an interracial couple living on Water Island.
According to an affidavit issued by the Virgin Islands Justice Department, Christopher Rice, 66, faces six counts of disturbance of the peace, six counts of cyber-stalking and cyber-harassment; six counts of harassment by telephone and 12 counts of intimidation.
The charges come from a stream of threatening and racist text and voice messages allegedly made by Rice to an interracial couple on Water Island in June.
V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker said at a press conference Friday afternoon that Rice is being charged under local hate crime laws after threatening bodily and property harm to the couple. The husband is black and the wife is white.
Walker denounced Rice’s alleged behavior and said the VIDOJ would move swiftly with criminal charges against him after a Superior Court judge found that there was probable cause for criminal charges.
The affidavit filed by Special Agent Sehkera Tyson, who is an assistant director at the VIDOJ’s Bureau of Investigation, said the couple left their home on Water Island following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but returned to the island on June 5.
On June 8 at approximately 12:00 noon, the wife received a text message on her cellphone with threatening and derogatory words, including a demand for the wife to “tell her f*&king #$@hole husband to get the f*$# off of Water Island.” The text message also warned the wife that there was a contract out to kill her husband, and that she needed to advise him to leave or else he would be shot.
Also included in the text was the N-word, a racial slur directed at African-American people.
The couple were perplexed by the derogatory messages, as they could not recall being in any altercations or disagreements with anyone.
The following day, on June 9 at about 6:00 a.m., the wife discovered two voice messages on her phone from the same number that had sent the demeaning messages, and upon listening, the voice was immediately recognizable by both the wife and husband as Rice’s, according to the affidavit.
The couple had met Rice through a mutual friend when they stayed at a condominium in Puerto Rico in January 2018, the affidavit states.
Special Agent Tyson, who examined the voice messages, said Rice referred to the black man as “a dead f@#king N*^ger,” and asked the wife whether she believed her husband would live to see age 55, according to the affidavit.
Part of Rice’s problem was a generator installed at the married couple’s home that had apparently annoyed him. In the voice message, Rice also told the wife that she would be shot because of her husband, and that “they’re going to blow your house up because of that f*^king generator.” Rice also advised the wife to get rid of her husband, and that the husband should return to the U.S. mainland. The victims told police that although they did not know Rice’s telephone number, they could positively identify him were they to see him again.
According to the affidavit, further investigation into the matter revealed that Rice had made several police reports in June 2018, and provided officers with the same number used to send the derogatory text and voice messages to the married couple. Rice also has a Facebook page, and the same number used to call and text the victims was listed on the page as his phone contact, according to the affidavit.
The charges carry a combined prison sentence of 75 years, Walker said. Rice was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, and his arraignment hearing has been set for July 19.
On social media, Rice says on Linkedin he has been “self-employed” as the “president” of “Rice Constrution [sic]” on St. Thomas since 1990.
Walker described the incident as “detestable” and “unacceptable” in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I would like to state that the allegations are troubling in that the defendant allegedly expressed a plan of attack on this interracial couple living on Water Island for the sole purpose of harassing, terrorizing, and causing bodily injury to them. It is absolutely unacceptable — and it is illegal — for persons in the Virgin Islands to be treated this way simply because of the color of their skin,” Walker said. “And it is deplorable to tell someone that either he or she may not live in a particular place in the Virgin Islands because of that person’s skin color. I am appalled by the racial allegations and alleged threats of bodily harm. It is an outrage, an absolute outrage that something like this could allegedly occur in a beautiful and very diverse place such as the Virgin Islands. This interracial couple have the right to reside on Water Island without fear for their lives. And we will do everything possible to protect them.”