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AG says evidence didn’t support hate crime charge in Claremont near-hanging

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2019 1:13:57 PM
Modified: 8/8/2019 9:58:37 PM

CLAREMONT — Prosecutors charged a 13-year-old boy with felony second-degree assault and two related misdemeanors for pushing an 8-year-old biracial boy off a picnic table while he had a rope tied around his neck, according to a report from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office issued Wednesday afternoon.

But although the young teen may have used “hateful” racist language to the victim’s sister and called the boy a racial epithet at some point in the past, there was not enough evidence to conclude that the near-hanging was racially motivated, the attorney general’s 25-page report states.

“Because (the juvenile’s) motives cannot be established, he cannot be charged either with a hate crime or a violation of the Civil Rights Act,” the report states.

The report, released at the direction of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald with the approval of the New Hampshire judge overseeing the juvenile case, indicates the 13-year-old boy pleaded guilty on Jan. 31, 2018, to committing misdemeanor simple assault, and was subject to Family Court’s continued jurisdiction, including engaging in rehabilitative services.

None of the juveniles involved are named in the report, nor is the victim, Quincy Chivers.

“Given the juvenile delinquency confidentiality rules, we can’t provide you with any information except that which is in the report,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Lisa L. Wolford said on Wednesday.

The investigation started shortly after the Aug. 28, 2017, incident, when Quincy’s family said he had been called racial epithets before a teenager pushed him off a picnic table with the rope tied around his neck. The 13-year-old’s family disputed those facts, calling the situation a “backyard accident” with no ill intent.

Quincy suffered “significant abrasions and contusions” on his neck, and he was eventually airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The uproar over the incident, which some likened to a “lynching,” cast a national spotlight on Claremont and also prompted hundreds of concerned residents to gather in Broad Street Park two weeks later to call for tolerance and resilience.

But the report says, “There is no reliable evidence that any child used racist terminology in conjunction with the rope incident ... (and) there is no credible evidence that any of the children used the word ‘lynched’ or ‘lynching.’ ”

Four months after the incident, MacDonald and Gov. Chris Sununu announced the creation of a civil rights unit within the Attorney General’s Office, and the Republican governor also signed an executive order establishing an Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, citing the Claremont case and other incidents around New Hampshire as motivation.

The newly released report gives an account of the entire day on Aug. 28, 2017, which started with several juveniles, including the teen in question and the victim, playing near Barnes Park in Claremont.

That play allegedly turned physically abusive with the young teen punching, kicking and throwing things at Quincy, during which time older children subjected Quincy and his sister to taunts, such as “Are we too white for you?” the report says. The juveniles told investigators the teen was upset with Quincy at the time because he had told the boy’s girlfriend that the teen may break up with her. One of the three charges against the juvenile, misdemeanor simple assault, stemmed from this contact. The attorney general’s report also notes that the hate crime statute does not apply to juvenile misdemeanor cases.

Evidence in the case also indicates that the teen may have used racist language against Quincy, his sister and another girl in past incidents, including calling them the “N-word,” the report says.

But there was no “credible” evidence gathered from the investigation into the near-hanging, which occurred later on that same day, that the teen assaulted the victim because of hostility toward the victim’s race, prosecutors said in the report.

Everyone who was present during the incidents, or shortly after them, was interviewed during the investigation, and the Attorney General’s Office made its conclusions based on information from those interviews. The interviews included those of the teen charged, the victim, other teenagers who were present, the victim’s family and the family of the teen charged.

The report gives the following account of the near-hanging, which occurred around 5 p.m. on a late August day almost two years ago:

Several children, ages 8 through 14, were hanging out in the teen’s backyard off North Street in Claremont. The boy charged, who was 13, and his friend, who was 14, grabbed a tire swing rope and tied it around their necks. They both jumped off the picnic table, but because of their height, their feet touched the ground before the slack in the rope was gone.

Quincy then placed the rope around his neck, following the other boys’ lead. The teen in question then pushed the back of Quincy’s legs, causing him to fall off the table and hang from his neck because his feet couldn’t touch the ground.

The rope either slid off his neck or he untied it, but not before it caused the injuries to Quincy and required him to be hospitalized for a day.

“The hate crime and civil rights statutes require proof that the perpetrator’s motive in assaulting the victim was the result of racial animus,” the report reads. “While the evidence makes clear that (the 13-year-old) did assault the victim, causing the injuries to his neck, the evidence does not establish why he did so.”

The teen had told interviewers that he had wanted to “scare the victim by yelling and thrusting his arms out,” but he denied pushing Quincy or knowing that he had a rope around his neck at the time. The teen also denied being racist or knowing Quincy’s race.

Quincy first told investigators that he hadn’t been pushed and that what happened was an accident. His narrative changed, though, and he ultimately said he felt the teen grab the back of his legs and push him.

The Sullivan County Attorney’s Office filed the three delinquency petitions against the teen in December 2017. (Violations of New Hampshire’s criminal code by a juvenile are called delinquencies, “which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the crimes of misdemeanor simple assault, felony second-degree assault, and misdemeanor reckless conduct,” the report says.)

Since shortly after the incident, the Attorney General’s Office has sought the release of some information in the case for several reasons, including that the report would “serve to rehabilitate the juvenile by relieving him of the burden of incorrect accusations concerning his conduct on Aug. 28, 2017,” the Attorney General’s Office argued and court ruled.

Quincy’s sister told interviewers the teen had been “really racist” to her in the past; she expressed skepticism though that the near-hanging happened because of the color of her brother’s skin, since the teen was angry at Quincy earlier in the day for a different reason. Another teen present that day allegedly said racist comments to the victim’s mother’s boyfriend, according to the report.

The issuing of the report followed a state Supreme Court ruling issued Tuesday that denied the release of extensive investigative records into the incident because it involved a juvenile. The Attorney General’s Office sought the release of the roughly 400 pages of records to provide context to the report, it said. And Circuit Court Judge John Yazinski had earlier written that “if no information is released to the public, the false narrative that currently exists will continue to be the only information that the public has access to,” an apparent reference to concerns that it had been a racially motivated attack on Quincy.

The case was investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Claremont Police Department.

Quincy and his family appeared on the the daytime TV talk show The Real in October 2017, where Quincy recounted the incident; that interview was referenced in the report.

Cassandra Elcock, Quincy’s mother, said she was reviewing the report and declined to comment.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248  .

Correction

The Sullivan County Attorney’s Office filed three delinquency petitions against a juvenile in connection with this case. An earlier version of this story misstated who filed the charges.




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