Two Howard County teens have pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge and will serve weekends in jail under a plea deal related to vandalism at Glenelg High School that included swastikas and other racial epithets.
Joshua Shaffer of Mount Airy and Seth Taylor of Glenwood, both 19, appeared Thursday in Howard County Circuit Court before Administrative Judge William V. Tucker. Both waived their rights to a jury or court trial and accepted plea deals from the county State’s Attorney Office.
Shaffer, who prosecutors said was the student who wrote a racial epithet targeting the Glenelg High principal, who is black, in the May 23 incident, pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge related to targeting an individual.
Of the potential three-year sentence, prosecutors called for him to serve 18 weekends at the Howard County Detention Center. Shaffer will also receive supervised probation and will perform 150 hours of community service, according to the plea deal. He will be required to attend cultural awareness or sensitivity training, and pay fines, court costs and retribution to the school system.
Taylor, who prosecutors alleged spray painted “KKK” and swastikas on school property, also pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge related to targeting a group. Prosecutors recommended he serve nine weekends at the detention center, and other penalties similar to Shaffer.
Melissa Montgomery, assistant state’s attorney, said the jail time will be served one weekend a month, and the defendants will not serve on the same weekends.
Shaffer and Taylor are scheduled to appear in court for separate disposition hearings in March. Tucker said he will add more community service time for each of the teens, but did not elaborate.
“The court is very disturbed to what occurred here,” the judge said. “This court does not see this as a prank.”
Earlier this month the other two teens allegedly involved — 18-year-olds Matthew Lipp of Woodbine and Tyler Curtiss of Brookeville — appeared in court after their attorneys filed separate motions to dismiss the hate crime charges. That request was denied by a judge.
Lipp received a plea offer but it was rejected, according to his attorney. It remains unclear if Curtiss received a plea agreement. Trials are scheduled for Curtiss and Lipp in January and February, respectively.
The hearing Thursday for Shaffer and Taylor revealed details of the incident that previously had not been discussed in open court, including that the four teens — then Glenelg High School seniors — wore masks and hoods as they spray painted the school’s property with symbols and racial epithets at about 11:30 p.m. May 23.
The following morning, staff found the graffiti scrawled on exterior walls, the school’s main entrance, garbage cans, the stadium press box, an area near the tennis courts and other locations. The discovery was made three hours before an awards ceremony for graduating seniors, prosecutors said.
After being identified by video surveillance and by a school resource officer, the four teens were charged with seven-count indictments, all misdemeanors. They each faced hate crime charges, two counts related to destruction of property and two trespassing counts. They could have faced up to three years behind bars and a $5,000 fine on the most serious charges.
Prosecutors said that upon being charged, Taylor admitted to spray painting the school when questioned May 24, indicating “he decided to commit a senior prank,” according to prosecutors. They said Shaffer initially denied involvement but after a “lengthy conversation” admitted he was involved and told them: “It was stupid.”
The damages to the school’s property was estimated at more than $2,000. Taylor has already paid his portion, according to his attorney, Debra Saltz. She declined further comment.
Outside the courtroom Shaffer’s attorney, Joe Murtha, said his client “accepts responsibility for his behavior.”
“The important thing is he recognizes his wrongdoing and accepts responsibility,” Murtha said.
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All four teens graduated from Glenelg High School but did not walk in the graduation ceremony, according to a county schools spokesman. The teens had fulfilled all graduation requirements prior to the incident.