Man who accused of a series of hate crimes on NW Side gets probation in plea deal

CHICAGO — A Jefferson Park man who faced hate crime charges for a series of incidents at his neighbor’s home has been sentenced to two years of probation.

Thomas Howard, 62, pleaded guilty to two counts of stalking causing distress and one count of criminal defacement before Judge Steven Watkins last Wednesday, October 4, according to court records. Prosecutors dropped the hate crime charge, two additional stalking charges, and five additional counts of criminal damage.

Chicago police identified Howard as the person responsible for a series of anti-gay incidents because he was the only person in the area who bought a bumper sticker showing Donald Trump urinating on Joe Biden’s name, prosecutors said during his initial bail hearing in March.

Thomas Howard | Chicago Police Department

Between May 2022 and January, Howard repeatedly targeted a family’s home in the 5700 block of North Mason with anti-gay actions, Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Dale-Schmidt said in March.

Dale-Schmidt said that Howard went on the family’s porch twice last year, in May and again in July, to chop their pride flag in half. In the latter incident, he “flipped off” the family’s security camera. A few months later, he sprayed their rainbow flag with stain from a Super Soaker.

Time after time, he left “right-wing political notes and stickers” on the family’s home as surveillance cameras recorded him, said Dale-Schmidt.

Even though Howard lived less than a block from the family’s home, nobody recognized him even after media reports spread news of the crimes last autumn.

After supporters helped the family paint over hateful messages left on their garage last fall, Howard allegedly returned to paint “creeps,” “weirdos,” and “POS dems” on the property. To cap it off, he slapped a bumper sticker on the family’s garage that showed former President Donald Trump urinating on President Joe Biden’s last name, Dale-Schmidt said.

Investigators learned that the only place in the world to buy the Trump-Biden sticker was from an eBay seller. And, after getting a grand jury subpoena for eBay sales records, police determined that Howard was the only person in the area who bought one, said Dale-Schmidt.

After learning Howard’s name, Chicago police detectives determined that Howard had been involved in a traffic accident while driving a car with a People’s Gas logo on the side. And People’s Gas told cops that Howard had been given “multiple coachings” about having political discussions at work, according to Dale-Schimdt.

She said Howard’s job involved using high-visibility spray paint similar to those used in the crimes, which occurred when he was off work.

Howard took responsibility for the incidents during his initial hearing, telling Judge Barbara Dawkins, “I’ve taken ownership of what I’ve done, and I’m not proud of it.”

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com