Hanging of black-painted doll no hate crime, prosecutors say Law said to lack authority for display on private land

July 09, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County prosecutors said yesterday they will not press criminal charges against two men who hung a black-painted doll from a noose last week at a Woodstock trailer park.

County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor said the display may have been offensive, but it did not violate Maryland's hate crime law because it was set up on the property of one of the men.

"We checked the criminal code and there are no crimes against defacing your own doll on your own property," O'Connor said.

"This is not even a close call, as far as the law is concerned. It certainly is in poor taste, and maybe immoral, but it is not a crime."

Police seized the doll, along with a Confederate flag that had been strung along a telephone guide wire, Thursday at Granite Mobile Home Park. Responding to an anonymous phone call, police found the flag and a doll that had been colored black with markers.

The doll, which had soap pads attached for hair and anti-abortion statements written on its clothing, was hung from a tree with a noose, police said. A meat cleaver was embedded in the tree next to the doll, according to police, who seized the doll, flag and cleaver.

According to a police report, two men admitted arranging the display. The men, whose names were withheld by police, said they had been drinking heavily and, "not thinking," had intended the arrangement as a joke.

The men said they had not meant to offend anyone and denied belonging to any hate group, the report said.

Bernetha George, vice president of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said prosecutors should have filed charges because the display left some residents feeling threatened.

"I am not confident that this state's attorney makes decisions that are in the best interest of race relations in Baltimore County," George said. "The people in that community have had their rights violated. They have a right to live at home in peace."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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