Posted on May 9, 2024

No Hate Crime Charges for Slurs Shouted at Utah Women’s Team

Associated Press, May 8, 2024

A northern Idaho prosecutor won’t bring hate crime charges against an 18-year-old accused of shouting a racist slur at members of the Utah women’s basketball team during the NCAA tournament.

The deputy attorney for the city of Coeur d’Alene made the announcement Monday, writing in a charging decision document that although the use of the slur was “detestable” and “incredibly offensive,” there wasn’t evidence suggesting that the man was threatening physical harm to the women or to their property. That means the conduct is protected by the First Amendment and can’t be charged under Idaho’s malicious harassment law, Ryan Hunter wrote.

The members of the University of Utah basketball team were staying at a Coeur d’Alene hotel in March as they competed at the NCAA tournament in nearby Spokane, Washington. Team members were walking from a hotel to a restaurant when they said a truck drove up and the driver yelled a racist slur at the group. After the team left the restaurant, the same driver returned and was “reinforced by others.” They were revving their engines and yelling again at the players {snip}


In the document detailing the decision, Hunter said police interviewed nearly two dozen witnesses and pored over hours of surveillance video. Several credible witnesses described a racist slur being hurled at the group as they walked to dinner, but their descriptions of the vehicle and the person who shouted the slur varied, and police weren’t able to hear any audio of the yelling on the surveillance tapes.

There also wasn’t any evidence to connect the encounter before the team arrived at the restaurant with what happened as they left, Hunter wrote. Still, police were able to identify the occupants of a silver passenger vehicle involved in the second encounter, and one of them — an 18-year-old high school student — reportedly confessed to shouting a slur and an obscene statement at the group, Hunter said.

Prosecutors considered whether to bring three possible charges against the man — malicious harassment, disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace — but decided they didn’t have enough evidence to support any of the three charges.

That’s because Idaho’s hate crime law makes racial harassment a crime only if it is done with the intent to either threaten or cause physical harm to a person or to their property. The man who shouted the slur told police he did it because he thought it would be funny, Hunter wrote.