N.H. Attorney General: 2017 Claremont Assault Not a Hate Crime
The New Hampshire Attorney General's office released a 25-page report Wednesday summarizing its investigation into a high-profile attack involving children in Claremont in 2017.
The report revolves around the events of August 28, 2017, when a group of 13 and 14 year olds were accused of tying a rope around an 8-year-old biracial boy's neck and pushing him off a picnic table, leading to serious injuries.
The Claremont police initially viewed the incident as an accident, but it prompted outrage and soul-searching for community members and the victim's family. Some called the attack an attempted lynching.
In the midst of demands for action and increasing national media attention, the Attorney General's office launched an investigation to determine if the attack constituted a hate crime or civil rights violation.
In its report, the AG found that the attacks did not meet the criteria of a hate crime. It concluded that the victim put the rope around his own neck as the older children had done themselves. Then, a 13 year old pushed the victim off the picnic table, leading to his injuries.
That teen was charged with three delinquencies, which, if he had been over 18, could have sent him to jail or prison. The AG found that the teen had fought physically with the victim earlier that day. Even though he and another teenager likely had made racist remarks to the victim and his sister earlier, the AG concluded that racism did not motivate the actual attack.
The report comes a day after the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the Attorney General could not release its 400-page investigation into the attack due to confidentiality concerns for the accused juveniles, but that it could release its short report.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Lisa Woldorf said the AG's office had hoped to dispel inaccuracies about the incident and the perpetrator by sharing the full report.
"Believing that we had a strong legal argument, we thought that it made the most sense to release the two documents at once," she explained.
"We believed that given the interest that the public and media had displayed about this matter, it was important to be as transparent as possible," she said.
Editor’s note: In her interview with Rick Ganley, NHPR reporter Sarah Gibson talked about the part of the report that concerns the juvenile who was found to have assaulted the victim. She said, “There is a real emphasis in the AG’s report to counter what they called a ‘false narrative’ haunting the juvenile accused in the case. So it seems like there was an attempt by the AG’s office in this report to kind of clear the name of the juvenile who was found guilty of delinquencies but who did not commit a hate crime, they found.”
On Thursday, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office responded by stating that the purpose of their investigation was not to clear the juvenile’s name, but, as their report says, “to determine whether there was credible evidence that the one or more of the older children involved was substantially motivated to commit a crime against the victim because of hostility toward that child’s race.”
The statement in the report that the “false narrative continues to haunt the juvenile in this case,” was a quote from the 5th Circuit Court Family Division, not from the Attorney General's office itself.