CROFTON, Md. (WJZ/AP) — Two men already charged in connection with a noose found outside a Maryland middle school are now facing hate crime charges.
The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney announced Wednesday that prosecutors are charging Conner Prout of Crofton and John Havermann of Pasadena, both 19, with harassing/committing a crime upon a person because of the person’s race/religion and related conspiracy charges. They’re already charged with trespassing, disturbing school operations and disorderly conduct.
One of the suspect’s lawyer says that the state’s attorney is just trying to curry favor with voters. That is why the charges were brought. He says his client is not a member of any hate group.
The teens face hate crime charges after surveillance video captured them placing a noose at Crofton Middle School earlier this month. The attorney claims charging what they did as a hate crime is a politically motivated decision.
“It was done to placate democratic voters and African American voters. Two 19-year-old kids, sort of a dumb thing to do. There is no evidence that it was racially related. These are immature pranks,” says defense attorney Richard Trunnel.
“Kids doing a prank is ringing a doorbell and running away. This is not a prank. People understand and know what a noose means. It will not be tolerated here,” says Kristen DeBoy Caminiti, creator of Crofton is Kind. She started the group after she saw rising hate and racism.
She watched Congressman Anthony Brown’s speech on the House floor on Wednesday. His district includes Crofton Middle and Severna Park, home to Sean Urbansky, who is charged with killing army officer Richard Collins on the University of Maryland College Park campus.
The FBI is looking at the murder as a hate crime but have yet to say so conclusively.
“This incident was not some random act of violence. It was a heinous, despicable and unprovoked crime of hate. Richard Collins murderer, he was a homegrown terrorist who was radicalized on the university campus,” Brown says.
Charges in the high-profile incidents are capturing attention and sending a strong message.
“We have to make it better, we have to for our kids and for the kids that will come behind them,” Caminiti says.
The principal of Crofton Middle told parents in a letter that the noose incident was disturbing on many levels and she cannot ignore the simple intolerance.
Authorities say the noose was spotted hanging from a light at Crofton Middle School on May 11 and a custodian removed it.
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