The Scottish man who was found guilty of a hate crime and fined $1,100 for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to do the Nazi salute has raised tens of thousands of dollars for his appeal.
Mark Meechan, 30, who was convicted last month, taught the pug, named Buddha, to respond with the Nazi salute when prompted by statements such as “Heil Hitler” and “gas the Jews.” Meechan posted videos of the dog performing the trick on YouTube.
Meecham said at his sentencing on Monday that he would appeal his conviction, saying it sets a dangerous legal precedent against freedom of expression.
As of Thursday, he already had raised over $185,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the costs of his appeal, over $40,000 more than his original goal.
On the page he says: “This conviction will be used as an example to convict other people over the things they say and the jokes they make, it sets a standard where courts will be able to willfully ignore the context and intent of a persons words and actions in order to punish them and brand them as criminals.”
The original video, posted in April 2016 on his YouTube channel, Count Dankula, was viewed more than 3 million times before it was removed for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech. Meechan said on the video that he trained the dog to annoy his girlfriend. He later posted a video in which he apologized for the original dog clips, saying it was a joke and that he has no such political leanings.
In the sentencing Monday, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll rejected Meechan’s explanation that the video was made as a private joke and pointed out that he had “not taken any steps to prevent the video being shared publicly.” He added, speaking of the evidence: “I found it proved that the video you posted, using a public communications network, was grossly offensive and contained menacing, anti-Semitic and racist material.”
Comedian Ricky Gervais disagreed with the conviction.
“If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive,’ he posted on Twitter, “then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.”