As Seth Taylor was escorted out of the Howard County Circuit Courtroom in handcuffs Friday afternoon, he said, “Thank you, your honor. Have a good day.”
Taylor was responding to Administrative Judge William V. Tucker’s wish of good luck after the judge sentenced the former Glenelg High School student to serve nine consecutive weekends, of a potential three-year sentence, in the Howard County Detention Center for a hate crime charge related to graffiti found at the high school that included racial epithets and swastikas.
Taylor, 19, of Glenwood, pleaded guilty in December to a hate crime charge related to targeting a group, after prosecutors alleged he used green spray paint and scrawled “KKK” and swastikas on the school’s property.
Melissa Montgomery, an assistant state’s attorney, said to Tucker, this case is “not your average case, your honor. This is not a simple vandalism case. This is a hate crime.”
Glenelg High Principal David Burton was in the courtroom Friday and addressed Tucker, previously doing so at the first sentencing earlier this month for Joshua Shaffer. Burton, who is black, found a racial epithet targeting himself the day of the incident.
Burton said in the morning following the incident, staff and students were horrified and upset. Burton said he had to a take moment in his office and pray.
When the four students were questioned, Taylor “was the only one of the four individuals who was the most cooperative and was the most remorseful from the start,” Burton said.
He added that Taylor seemed to be the “most affected” by the acts that had transpired the previous night.
Taylor’s sentence came after a nearly two-hour recess Friday to allow for Tucker to review materials from Taylor’s attorney, Debra Saltz.
Saltz argued her client should not receive jail time because it does not send a message of forgiveness. Instead, that message of forgiveness could be sent by Taylor continuing to volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and spending time with the Cornerstone Church, an African-American church in Columbia.
“He is not a racist … he has a good heart,” Saltz said.
On May 23, Taylor and three other Glenelg seniors at the time, spray painted over 50 counted symbols, words and sayings written on all corners of school grounds, including the main entrance, near the tennis courts, the stadium press box, bleachers, sidewalks and other locations, prosecutors previously said.
Once at Glenelg High, the other three teens began spraying racist messages and Taylor “didn’t want to be the only one not spraying something hurtful, so he drew a swastika or KKK,” according to the state’s attorney’s statement of facts.
“Seth, in his mind, thought they were not going to spray hateful things,” Saltz said.
Taylor addressed the greater community, Burton, Tucker and his parents in the courtroom.
“I failed you, you didn’t fail me,” Taylor said to his parents. “I will do everything I can to make you proud again.”
Scott Taylor, Taylor’s father, also addressed the courtroom Friday. Scott Taylor said his son’s actions “do not represent the beliefs in our home.”
Seth Taylor wanted to personally address Burton, but the principal did not come back for the afternoon session. He has addressed Burton previously.
He read his remarks he had planned to say to Burton in court, including, “I am sorry … for not giving him the respect he deserved.”
To Tucker, Taylor said, “I deserve whatever punishment I get.”
Tucker sentenced Taylor to nine consecutive weekends, or 27 days, in jail. The sentence will be served from 6 p.m. on Fridays to 6 p.m. on Sundays, so three days but a 48-hour period.
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“I don’t believe it [the incident] defines you,” Tucker said to Taylor in the courtroom. “Make this your stepping stone … put this behind you.”
Tucker added he is “also accepting the fact you [Taylor] are extremely remorseful.”
Taken into custody Friday, Taylor was also sentenced to 250 hours of community service to be completed one year from March 22, three years of supervised probation to begin March 22, submit to any testing, and abstain from alcohol, illegal substances and the abuse of prescription drugs.
Tucker honored Taylor’s already 181 hours of community service he has completed since the incident. Taylor had completed 114 hours within the first six weeks following the incident.
In the weeks following the May 23 incident, Taylor did not see his friends and he did not participate in senior week upon graduation — a tradition where most students across Maryland go to Ocean City after graduating from high school. Instead, Taylor “donated his time to the community that he hurt,” Saltz said.
Shaffer, 19, of Mount Airy, was sentenced to 18 consecutive weekends in jail earlier this month. He was taken out of the courtroom March 8 in handcuffs to immediately begin his sentence at the Howard County Detention Center. Shaffer is the former student prosecutors say wrote the racial epithet targeting Burton.
The two other teens — 19-year-old Matthew Lipp, of Woodbine, and Tyler Curtiss, 18, of Brookeville — will both appear in court April 4 for sentencing. The two filed separate motions in December to dismiss the hate crime charges which was denied by a judge.