Fond du Lac County jury finds Daniel Navarro guilty of killing motorcyclist as a hate crime




  • In US
  • 2022-08-10 22:33:27Z
  • By FDL Reporter | The Reporter
Daniel D.
Daniel D.  

FOND DU LAC - A jury Wednesday found Daniel D. Navarro guilty of first-degree intentional homicide as a hate crime for causing the crash that killed motorcyclist Phillip Thiessen in 2020.

Jurors, after a brief deliberation, also convicted Navarro of the second crime with which he was charged: first-degree recklessly endangering safety, the Fond du Lac County District Attorney's Office said.

RELATED: Fond du Lac judge orders Daniel Navarro, charged with killing motorcyclist, committed to psychiatric facility

RELATED: Records: Fond du Lac man charged with hate crime in fatal crash had history of 'bizarre behavior' but freed from jail in 2019

Navarro, now 29, had admitted intentionally crossing the center line on a Taycheedah road in 2020 and steering into an incoming motorcycle driven by Thiessen, a 55-year-old retired law enforcement officer. Thiessen had worked for agencies including the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Fairfax, Virginia, Police Department.

A Wisconsin State Patrol officer takes photos of a crash scene involving a red pickup truck and a motorcycle July 3, 2020, on Winnebago Drive near State Highway 151 northeast of Fond du Lac.
A Wisconsin State Patrol officer takes photos of a crash scene involving a red pickup truck and a motorcycle July 3, 2020, on Winnebago Drive near State Highway 151 northeast of Fond du Lac.  

Minutes after the crash, Navarro told a deputy at the scene that "It was intentional, sir," according to the criminal complaint. He later repeated to two sheriff's investigators that night that he decided to hit the man on the Harley because he assumed that the man would be white and have "redneck" attitudes.

Navarro, who is Hispanic, had complained to police that he had been facing harassment by white people at his former workplace, and by some who lived near the Fond du Lac home he shared with his parents.

The Fond du Lac County chief medical examiner testified in court Tuesday that the crash caused more than a dozen serious injuries, four or five of which would have quickly caused Thiessen's death.

Navarro has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The next phase of the trial will address his mental state.

Daniel D.
Daniel D.  

Much of the groundwork for the insanity portion of the trial was laid during testimony Tuesday.

Tuesday included testimony about the defendant's belief that he experienced bias because of the spread of nationalist views popularized by "all that stuff with" former President Donald Trump.

The strongest disagreement in testimony Tuesday came when the prosecutor showed more than 3½ hours of video from an interview with Navarro, the lone suspect in the killing of Thiessen.

Detective Ryan Murphy answers a question from Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney on Tuesday at the Fond du Lac City County Government Center in Fond du Lac.
Detective Ryan Murphy answers a question from Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney on Tuesday at the Fond du Lac City County Government Center in Fond du Lac.  

"I did what had to be done," Navarro told detective Ryan Murphy.

After watching the entire interview, defense lawyer Jeffrey Jensen said Murphy's interview of Navarro kept leading officials back to the topic of race. Murphy had indicted it was Navarro, not detectives, who focused the discussion on differences between people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds.

"He just told this jury that … and that is not correct," Jensen said. Then, addressing Murphy, he said, "I was questioning your statement to this jury."

Navarro was charged in 2020 with the two hate crimes. Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney said Thiessen was targeted strictly because of his race; both crimes also involved the use of a dangerous weapon.

Defense lawyer Jeffrey Jensen argues Tuesday on behalf of Daniel D.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Jensen argues Tuesday on behalf of Daniel D.  

At other points in the video of Murphy questioning Navarro, Murphy was able several times to get Navarro back on topic after he wandered to topics of "Nazi psychopaths," farming, chemical poisons, or members of other ethnic groups he sometimes called by offensive terms.

Sgt.
Sgt.  

Navarro's attorney, Jensen, is trying to convince the jury of eight men and six women to find Navarro not guilty by reason of disease or defect - something figures show is rarely attempted, and even more rarely issued as a verdict in Wisconsin.

Also Tuesday, Fond du Lac County's chief medical examiner, Dr. Adam Kovach, spelled out more than a dozen serious injuries he found in his post-mortem examination of Thiessen. But otherwise, Kovach added, Thiessen took pretty good care of himself.

"There's no reason," he testified, to believe (Thiessen) wouldn't still be alive today" had his motorcycle not been struck.

Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Andrew Christenson is presiding over the case.

Contact Doug Schneider at (920) 431-8333, or DSchneid@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PGDougSchneider.

This article originally appeared on Fond du Lac Reporter: Jury finds Daniel Navarro guilty of killing motorcyclist as hate crime

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