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No Hate Crime In Noose Incident

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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.

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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.

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Original article

(Posted on December 9, 2004)

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