Five Loudoun County teenage boys, aged 16 and 17, appeared before Judge Avelina Jacob in the Loudoun County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Jan. 9 and pled guilty to one count of destruction of private property and one count of unlawful entry, according to a release by the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney.
The five teens were charged in connection with vandalizing a historic African American school in Ashburn on Oct. 20, according to previous Tribune reporting. The five spray-painted graffiti on three sides of the school the night of Sept. 30.
The defendants appeared before Jacob again this week, where Jacob withheld a finding of guilt conditioned upon each of the juveniles successfully completing probation and a series of requirements.
This means Jacob accepts the plea, withholds a finding of guilt and deferrs the sentencing for a period of time. If the defendants comply with probation, the defendant will be able to withdraw their plea, the case is dismissed and the court record is sealed.
“It became very apparent to us as we reviewed the facts, and their statements to detectives, that these kids truly did not appreciate the significance or the meaning of what they were drawing on the building. It also became obvious to us that their motivations had nothing to do with bigotry or hatred toward any class of people,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman said in a release.
Of the five boys, three are ethnic minorities. The drawings on the building included swastikas, dinosaurs, vulgar sexual images and words such as “brown power” and “white power.”
“Because of this, we are seizing the opportunity to treat this as an educational experience for these young men so they may better appreciate the significance of their actions and the impact this type of behavior has on communities and has had throughout history,” Plowman said.
During their probationary period, the five will be required to visit the United States Holocaust Museum and “The Day of Remembrance: The 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066” exhibit at the American History Museum. They will also write one book report per month for the next 12 months from an approved list. None of the reports may be substituted for a regular school assignment. Books were chosen based on their literary significance and/or their subject matter content surrounding race, religion and discrimination, according to the release.
The teens will also write a research paper explaining the message that swastikas and “white power” on African American schools or houses of worship send to the African American community as well as the broader community, which includes other minority groups. The research paper must reference and include the history of the KKK lynchings, the Nazi “final solution,” the Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education court decisions, according to the release.
Finally, each teen must listen to a recorded interview of Ms. Yvonne Neal, describing her experiences at the Ashburn Colored School. Neal attended the Ashburn Colored School from 1938 until 1945.
The cases will be reviewed in January 2018.