Thomas Dale teens facing hate crime charges

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - New information on the Chesterfield teens facing hate crime charges, accused of putting a noose around a black student's neck.

The charges for the two Thomas Dale students have been upgraded to bias-motivated assault.

In this case, it's a misdemeanor.

The charge would be elevated to a felony if the victim was physically hurt, but that was not the case here.

If convicted, the 15 and 16-year-olds could spend 30 days in jail.

Friday morning's Times-Dispatch takes a closer look at the relationship between all three teens involved. Apparently, they are all members of Thomas Dale's JV baseball team.

The paper also interviewed a lieutenant at the Chesterfield Police Department. He says at least one report described the encounter as horseplay.

Police believe the two white students grabbed their black teammate and unsuccessfully attempted to put a rope, fashioned to look like a noose, around his neck.

A racial slur was said during the encounter.

Police do not believe the intent was to cause "any major amount of harm."

Still, it's clear police are taking this matter seriously as this new bias-motivated assault charge could lead to jail time.

NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says it's about more than punishment — it's sending a message that this type of crime won't be tolerated.

According to Virginia State Police, 104 out of 170 hate crimes were racially motivated in 2009.

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