A 19-year-old Maryland man who pleaded guilty to the hate crime of hanging a noose from a light outside a middle school has been ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office said Conner Prout of Crofton was sentenced on Thursday after a plea deal was negotiated between prosecutors and the local chapter of the NAACP, reported the Washington Post.
Prout was also put on 18 months of supervised probation.
A teacher at Crofton Middle School found the noose on May 11 and police used surveillance footage to determine two people accessed the roof and placed the noose. The other man charged with the hate crime is 19-year-old John Havermann, who will go to trial later in October, reported Capital Gazette.
Prosecutors for both men, who are white, claim the act was not meant to represent any racial hatred, rather a symbol for suicide. However, in his sentencing remarks, Judge J. Michael Wachs said he doubted their claim.
“I find it hard to believe the connotation of the noose had to do with suicide. I just don’t believe it,” Wachs said before adding that Prout’s “racist” actions resulted in “significant pain to the community.”
As part of the plea deal, Prout’s community service will be overseen by the NAACP. After the hearing finished on Thursday, Prout shook hands with members of the Caucus of African American Leaders and the NAACP.
Vickie Gipson, a member of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said as part of Prout’s community service, he will have to publicly apologize in front of the caucus at their meeting on Tuesday.
Gipson said Prout will also be required to complete activities designed to educate him about racial issues.