By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A 19-year-old was sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with a noose being placed at a local middle school back in May.

Conner Charles Prout pleaded guilty to a charge of race/religious belief–harass/commit a crime upon.

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Prout and John Havermann were arrested after a noose was found hanging from a light post in the courtyard at Crofton Middle School on May 11.

Prout was sentenced to 120 hours of community service under the direction of the Anne Arundel County NAACP. This sentence was in collaboration with Rev. Stephen A. Tillett, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP.

“I know some people are upset, well he needs to go to jail,” Rev. Tillet said. “Jail isn’t the answer for everything.”

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Prout’s actions stoked racial tensions in the community, but his attorney, Richard Trunnel, said he did not intend on offending anyone.

“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,” Trunnel said.

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At the time, the founder of an anti-racism group expressed skepticism.

“Kids doing a prank is ringing a doorbell and running away. This is not a prank. People understand and know what a noose means,” said Kristen DeBoy Caminiti, creator of Crofton is Kind. “It will not be tolerated here.”

Rev. Tillett says other groups will also be involved as Prout completes his community service.

“Whether he acknowledges what a noose meant or not, we know that he’s learning, and we’ll use this as an educational opportunity to make sure that he gets some corrective instruction; and hopefully he will not ever, ever do this again,” he said.

Prout was also sentenced to a suspended sentence of three years in prison, and 18 months of supervised probation.

Havermann is set to go to trial on October 19.

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Ava-joye Burnett