Authorities in Claremont, N.H., found no evidence to support bringing hate crime charges against juveniles involved in the injuries of an 8-year-old biracial boy who suffered “significant” neck abrasions when he was hanged from a tree in 2017, prosecutors said.
The finding was contained in a 25-page report on the incident that New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office released Wednesday. The case had shocked the town and garnered national headlines.
MacDonald’s office said the “credible evidence” shows that on Aug. 28, 2017, the victim and his 11-year-old sister had spent several hours in the area of Barnes Park in Claremont with four children aged 13 and 14.
“The children described two significant events which took place during the day: an incident earlier in the day during which Boy 1 became angry at the victim for telling Boy 1’s girlfriend (Girl 1) that Boy 1 was going to end their relationship, and the incident at the end of the day which involved a tree-swing rope,” the report said.
Prosecutors said the evidence indicates that “during the earlier incident, some of the older children taunted the victim and his sister with racist language, such as, ‘Are we too white for you?’ The evidence also suggests that at some point in the past, Boy 1 may have used ‘hateful,’ racist language against the victim’s sister and another young girl, and may have called the victim the ‘N-word.’ ”
According to prosecutors, evidence in the later incident shows that “Boy 1 and Boy 2 tied the tree-swing rope, which was suspended from a tree branch, around their necks, jumped off a picnic table, and landed on the ground uninjured. As the other boys had done to themselves, the victim put the rope around his own neck and stood on the picnic table. The victim was facing away from Boy 1, who was sitting on the picnic table close by.”
MacDonald’s office said “Boy 1 used his hands to push the backs of the victim’s legs, causing him to fall off the table. The victim hung by his neck because his feet could not touch the ground. The rope either slid off the victim’s neck or he untied it. The rope caused significant abrasions and contusions.”
Boy 1 was later charged as a juvenile with three delinquencies which, if committed by an adult, would have amounted to misdemeanor simple assault, felony second-degree assault, and misdemeanor reckless conduct, prosecutors said.
The boy later pleaded guilty to the sole misdemeanor count of simple assault and was “subject to the Circuit Court-Family Division’s continued jurisdiction as he complied with the court’s dispositional orders and engaged in rehabilitative services,” MacDonald’s office said.
But prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge the more serious hate crime and civil rights offenses.
“As relevant here, the hate crime and civil rights statutes require proof that the perpetrator’s motive in assaulting the victim was the result of racial animus,” MacDonald’s office said. “While the evidence makes clear that Boy 1 did assault the victim, causing the injuries to his neck, the evidence does not establish why he did so. Because Boy 1’s motives cannot be established, he cannot be charged either with a hate crime or a violation of the Civil Rights Act.”