Two of the four Glenelg High School students charged with hate crimes after swastikas and racial epithets were found on the school’s property in late May made their first appearances in a Howard County courtroom this week following their indictment by a grand jury.
Seth Taylor, 18, of Glenwood, appeared before Circuit Court Judge Richard S. Bernhardt Thursday morning with his lawyer Debra Saltz.
Taylor, in a black suit, white shirt and tie, sat in the back of the courtroom until his case was called and addressed the judge as “your honor” as the charges against him were reviewed.
A day earlier, Joshua Shaffer, 18, of Mount Airy, appeared before Bernhardt, without a lawyer. Shaffer is expected to be represented by attorney Joe Murtha, who has notified prosecutors he will enter the case.
Murtha did not reply to requests for comment and Saltz declined to comment.
Bernhardt told Shaffer in court on Wednesday that the charges “appear to be misdemeanor offenses but they are serious offenses.”
Shaffer, 18, of Mount Airy, who addressed Bernhardt as “sir,” wore a black sports coat, white button-down shirt, tie and khakis, swiftly left the courtroom after the hearing.
Neither Shaffer nor Taylor made a plea and the judge set another hearing for Oct. 17 and scheduled trials for Nov. 28.
Shaffer, Taylor, Tyler Curtiss of Brookeville and Matthew Lipp of Woodbine, face identical seven-count indictments, including three hate-crime charges. Curtiss and Lipp, also both 18, have initial appearances scheduled later this month.
It’s a “very serious matter [and] you’re a young fella,” Bernhardt said to Shaffer. “You better work very seriously with whichever attorney represents you.”
The four each face three counts related to race or religious harassment, two destruction of property-related charges and two trespassing charges, according to court records and a state’s attorney indictment summary. All of the charges are misdemeanors.
On May 24, during a morning awards ceremony for Glenelg graduating seniors, swastikas and racial epithets, including one that Howard County police said targeted the school’s African-American principal, were found painted on school’s outside walls, parking lot and campus sidewalks.
The four were identified by images from school surveillance cameras, police said. Neither the police nor the school system have confirmed if the four were members of the graduating class.
Released on their own recognizance, the four were ordered not to leave the state without a judge’s permission and to notify the court of any address change.
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The May incident is the second of its kind at the school in less than two years. In March 2017, “hate or bias” reports of swastikas and an anti-African American racial slur were discovered inside one of the school’s bathrooms, according to state police. At the time of the report last year no suspects had been identified.