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County attorney appeals racial graffiti decision
February 13, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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The case of a racial graffiti incident might have been dismissed, but County Attorney Doug Warner said the statute needs to be clarified.

The case began Oct. 17 of last year. Eighteen-year-old Alysha Schwartzkopf of Gering had been accused of applying a racial epithet to the car of a biracial Gering student during a volleyball match at Scottsbluff.

The case alleged the incident was based on the victim’s race, which would have enhanced the crime to a Class II misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

About three hours of testimony from witnesses were given at the trial held Feb. 4.

The case centered around Schwartzkopf’s motive in writing on the car of 18-year-old Isaiah Wilson. However, defense attorneys argued that a car was not a “structure” as defined in state statute. Judge James Worden agreed and dismissed the case before it could go to a jury.

Now, County Attorney Warner is appealing because he wants clarification of the statute.

“We think that graffiti applied to a vehicle does fit the statute,” he said. “We can’t go back and retry the case, so the outcome won’t change.”

Warner added that graffiti gets applied to lots of things, from boxcars to buildings to traffic signs, so the statute needs to be reviewed by a higher court.
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