Members of a Maryland community found hate speech scrawled on a high school football field and some parents now want the suspected vandals to face hate crime charges.
The act is not a hate crime under current Maryland law. While the law will change on Oct. 1, it’s unlikely to apply retroactively to the case.
The N-word was scrawled on the football field of Calvert High School in Prince Frederick, officials saw on Sunday evening. An outdoor classroom was broken into and damaged, and graffiti was scrawled on other areas.
Five young men, all 18, were identified as suspects, the sheriff’s office said. Augustine Robert Aufderheide, Andrew Matthew Edge, Kyle Edward Hill, Cade Allen Meredith and Anthony Joseph Sellers III each were charged with two counts of malicious property destruction and one count of fourth-degree burglary.
Families called the incident painful. Parent Tonya Pratt called for more severe charges.
“I don’t consider it to be a misdemeanor. We’re looking at a hate crime here,” she said. One of her sons attends the school. Another son just graduated.
Inez Claggett, vice chair of the county school board, also said the crime merits harsher charges.
“I am going to ask that the harshest penalties and charges be applied to this situation. And I will personally ask that the state examine Maryland hate crimes law to see if it applies to these circumstances,” she said.
The sheriff’s office developed suspects within 24 hours, Sheriff Mike Evans said.
“What I’ve been told by my investigators it is not considered as a hate crime at this time,” he said.
Starting in October, hate will not have to be the sole motivation for an act to be charged as a hate crime. The family of Richard Collins III was instrumental in getting the law changed this March after the Black college student was stabbed to death in 2017 on the University of Maryland’s campus. Collins’ attacker was convicted, but a hate crime charge was thrown out after a judge ruled that prosecutors did not meet the legal burden to show that racial hatred was the sole motivation for the attack.
The day after the racist vandalism was found, the high school tweeted a photo of football team jerseys spelling out “No hate here.” Team helmets were arranged in the shape of a heart.