David Sommer, Tampa Tribune, Dec. 10
CLEARWATER — The man who thought it a harmless prank to slip a noose over the head of a black teen took an emotional roller-coaster ride Wednesday.
First, Louis John Giannola IV dabbed tears as his attorney asked jurors not to convict him of a hate crime and leave him with a lifelong reputation as a bigot.
Then, Giannola exalted after jurors convicted him only of misdemeanor battery on 15- ear-old Dionte Hall, deciding he did not pick on the teen out of prejudice, a felony.
Finally, Giannola sobbed as he was led away to jail — on his 20th birthday — pending a January sentencing date on a misdemeanor that usually results only in probation for someone with no prior record.
Afterward, Chris Hall said he respected the jury’s decision but found it hard to believe his son’s race was not a factor when he was singled out for a prank with clear racial overtones as he sat in a Wendy’s restaurant with two white teammates from the Largo High School basketball squad.
At some point during the Jan. 14 incident, Giannola or one of his friends shouted a racial slur, according to witnesses in Giannola’s two-day trial on a charge of battery evidencing prejudice.