by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
Paul Morris had no idea that simply walking into the Jackman Inn in Avalon to give a thank you note to a cook who catered his son’s graduation party would turn into a beating, embarrassment, and front page news.
Now, one of the Caucasian men accused of attacking Morris, who is Black, has learned his fate: a prison sentence of 1 to 2 years.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Beth Lazzara on Jan. 9 levied the sentence on James Edward Kryl, 47. Lazzara also added five years probation and ordered Kryl to pay $1,000 towards Morris’ medical costs. Kryl was found guilty of the crimes in September.
Kryl was charged with ethnic intimidation, simple assault and conspiracy following the July 7, 2018, attack, in which Kryl was seen by witnesses beating and kicking Morris as he was on the ground inside the Jackman Inn. Kryl was with a group of people, all of whom were Caucasian, sporting either skinhead tattoos or other paraphernalia that suggested they belonged to a skinhead group.
A criminal complaint read that Morris was smoking a cigarette outside the establishment with the cook, Javon Jenkins, who is also Black, when the men were soon confronted by the all-White group. “At some point, words were exchanged and when Mr. Morris attempted to come back inside, he (Morris) stated he was hit and a physical fight poured into the pool room in the bar,” according to the complaint.
When Avalon police arrived, Morris, according to the complaint, told them he was “jumped by a bunch of White people in the bar.” Morris had a swollen and bloody upper lip as he identified the group of alleged attackers. When Avalon police requested backup, Bellevue officers detained Kryl, Natasha Bowers and Jeremy Ingram from the large group. Avalon officers detained Travis Cornell, Crystal Shields, and after a search, Terrence Stockey.
Witness No. 1 in the complaint stated he was “unsure who or what initiated (the fight) but Mr. Morris was definitely getting hit and kicked hard.”
Witness No. 2 in the complaint said there was “an uneasy feeling” about the all-White group in question, “and that they were not very friendly” when she went outside on the deck to smoke.
In Morris’ victim impact statement from Jan. 9, he said it’s difficult to live with the attack given the upbeat reasons he entered the Jackman Inn in the first place—to salute a “good friend” (Jenkins) for catering his son’s high school graduation.
“Being jumped and beaten on the heels of this milestone event for my family, with my heart full of appreciation, has altered how I remember this important event forever,” Morris’ statement read. “Every day, I look in the mirror and can see the scars as the result of (a) completely unprovoked attack, and relive the terror and pain that I felt.”
Morris also said he’s known in his community as a “church-going, family man” who teaches youth and those in the community to “turn the other cheek.” However, the attack on him has him “embarrased that I needed to engage in the exact violence I cautioned everyone around me from ever resorting to.”
According to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, a hate crime in Pennsylvania is termed “ethnic intimidation.” But the term “hate crime” is more commonly used across the country to describe crimes that are committed against a certain ethnic or religious group, such as African Americans and Jews. The New Pittsburgh Courier found that Pennsylvania recorded 67 “hate crimes” or “ethnic intimidation” crimes in 2018, 78 in 2017, and 61 in 2016. Nationwide, the FBI reported 7,128 hate crimes in 2018.
“I very easily could have been killed,” Morris said in his victim impact statement from Jan. 9, “if not for my size and effort to survive. Mr. Kryl should be an example to his fellow hate group members, so they think twice before attacking someone.”