Baltimore County

Mother, daughter plead guilty to civil rights violation in noose incident

A mother and daughter from Middle River have pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation for their involvement in an incident in 2010 in which a dead raccoon was hung by a noose from an African family's Middle River porch, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Dena Whedlee, 42, and her daughter Brittany Whedlee, 20, admitted to encouraging their co-conspirators — including Billy Ray Pratt, 24, of Halethorpe, and Joshua Wall, 20, of Essex — to hang the raccoon from the family's porch after a boy in the family got into a fight with Dena Whedlee's son, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein.

The women "understood and discussed the racial significance of using a raccoon, acknowledging that the term 'coon' is a derogatory term for black people," and discussed how hanging the animal would symbolize hanging a black person, prosecutors said.

The family whose porch the animal was hung from emigrated to the United States from Africa within the past three or four years, police had previously said.

Both women had previously lied to FBI investigators about the case, prosecutors said.

Both women face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for "conspiracy to deprive a person of civil rights" and up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for violating the Fair Housing Act, prosecutors said.

Their sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 14.

Pratt and Wall, who both had previously pleaded guilty to similar civil rights violations, are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 17.

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