Noose incident suspects facing hate crime charges

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – We're learning more about the seriousness of an alleged hate crime at a Chesterfield County public school. Two Thomas Dale teens are now charged with a hate crime attack involving another black student and a noose.

We got some startling numbers from State Police about just how many hate crimes in Virginia are racially motivated. The victim's father in this case told me he is just trying to protect his son in all of this and any backlash he might face at school.

The 15 and 16-year-old Thomas Dale High School students charged with assault after an incident involving a noose and another black student are in even more trouble tonight. New upgraded charges accuse them of a bias-motivated assault.

"A bias motivated assault is what we'd typically refer to as a hate crime," said NBC12 legal analyst, Steve Benjamin. "That is an assault against a person because of some characteristic of that person. Their background, ethnicity or religion."

Benjamin explained just how serious these charges are. If convicted, the teens could receive a mandatory minimum sentence.

"But it also delivers a message that the motivation behind the crime is not to be tolerated in society," he said. "A civil suit can be brought in addition to the criminal prosecution but I think that'd be pointless."

This alleged hate crime just adds to the numbers. According to Virginia State Police 104 hate crimes out of 170 in 2009 were racially motivated. Tonight we spoke with the victim's father who declined an on camera interview. But he told us his son was not suspended after the alleged altercation and that he had hoped that this incident would not go public. The father is looking for legal advice and declined our interview because he was concerned it would affect the outcome of the case. He had not heard of the new hate crime upgraded charge until we contacted him.

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