Massachusetts Daily Collegian

DA Office says noose incident at Amherst College is not a hate crime

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(Collegian File Photo)

An incident in which two juveniles tied and left a noose at Amherst College’s Pratt Field in early September—a discovery that sparked upset and demonstrations on the college’s campus—was ruled by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office to not be a hate crime.

In a press release sent out yesterday via email, the DA’s office stated that although the incident of the noose was highly offensive, it does not legally constitute a hate crime. No criminal charges are being sought against the juveniles responsible.

“You have to have an underlying crime, and that has to be shown to be motivated by bias and targeted at an individual or group,” said Mary Carey, communications director for the DA’s office as she explained the qualifications for an incident to be named a hate crime.

According to the DA’s office, in order to prosecute a person under the primary Massachusetts hate crime statute, three elements must be established: underlying criminal offense (the offender committed an assault or a battery upon the victim or damaged the victim’s property), offender’s intent (the offender acted with the intent to intimidate the victim) and victim’s protected characteristic (the offender targeted the victim, in whole or in part, because of the victim’s race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability).

This case did not meet any of those elements, Detective Cara Sullivan of the Amherst College Police Department told the Daily Collegian. Sullivan added that it was unfounded that “there was malicious intent behind this.”

Police determined the rope was tied and left at Pratt Field sometime between 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and 6 a.m. Sept. 5., reported MassLive. A week later, Amherst College Police Chief John B. Carter reported that officers had identified two juveniles as suspects in the case.

The immediate aftermath of the discovery of the noose involved heated discussion and condemnations from various figures and organizations. Amherst College President, Biddy Martin called the incident an “act of hate” in a letter released to the community on Sept. 10.

Alongside, the finding was called an “act of terror” by the Direct Action Coordinating Committee (DACC), and “an act of white violence” by the President of the Amherst College Democrats, Alexander Deatrick. A rally was held shortly after the incident on Sept. 12. organized by the Amherst College Black Student Union and DACC. It “centered around the blatant threat to Black lives that occurred,” stated a Facebook post from the two organizations, according to MassLive.

According to Martin, although the DA’s office did not rule the incident to be a hate crime, Amherst College will not use this decision to excuse the crime.

“While the noose was not tied or left on the field by a member of the Amherst College community, we requested that the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office conduct an investigation,” Martin said. “That investigation has taken place. We respect the DA’s decision. The outcome does not change the fact that the incident was deeply offensive, anxiety-producing and painful. We will not tolerate acts of racist bigotry on our campus.”

Sullivan made mention of the fact that, in special circumstances, the Amherst College Police Department reaches out to the DA’s office as to have both a more well-rounded perspective, as well as to determine whether it can move forward with any kinds of criminal charges.

“Especially with any type of alleged hate crime, anything we’re investigating…If we think we need another set of eyes, we can absolutely contact them,” she said. “It’s basically asking our lawyers what you think about this case.”

Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg can be reached at [email protected] Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.

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