URBANA — A University of Illinois student who said he gave ”30 seconds” of thought to the consequences of making a tiny noose out of string and leaving it where others could see it has been sentenced to a year of court supervision.
Andrew Smith, 20, of Normal, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning before Judge Heidi Ladd in Urbana to disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor, admitting that he tied a string into a noose on Sept. 1 and left it hanging in an elevator at Allen Hall in Urbana.
The sentence of supervision, along with 50 hours of public service and a $75 fine, allows Smith, who had no prior criminal contacts, to escape a permanent conviction should he successfully complete his sentence without further problems.
“He wrote apology letters and appeared sincere,” said State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, who OK'd initial charges of hate crime, a felony, and disorderly conduct against Smith back in September.
She said investigating police found Smith had “no history of racial prejudice.”
The more serious hate crime and three other misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges naming additional victims who were “alarmed and disturbed” by the noose were dismissed in return for his guilty plea.
The agreement was worked out by Smith’s attorney, Audrey Thompson of Urbana and Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink.
Rietz and Alferink said their office tried to contact the victims named in the charges about the resolution. Only one replied and said she was fine with that sentence for Smith.
Assistant State’s Attorney Justin Umlah laid out the following facts Tuesday for Ladd:
The noose was discovered in the elevator on Sept. 2 and brought to the attention of a resident advisor. News of it spread quickly on social media, sparking a broad range of commentary.
A young woman who knew Smith told UI police that he was an invited guest at Allen Hall, that he found the piece of string, tied it into a noose and left it on a hook in the elevator, despite her admonition that he shouldn’t do it.
The woman contacted Smith after seeing the flurry of social media commentary but he didn’t think the conduct was serious enough to turn himself in to police.
When police spoke with him on Sept. 2, Smith gave the following response, Umlah said:
“He did it because he had heard stories of campus buildings being haunted,” the prosecutor recounted. Smith also told police the knot he chose to make “just happened to be a racial hate symbol” and that he had spent “30 seconds thinking about how his actions could be considered a hate crime.”
Although he was a sophomore at the time of his arrest, Thompson told the judge who initially set his bond that he had enough credits to graduate this year. He was majoring in math.
UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the registrar’s office lists him as a student.