A University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) student who sprayed racist graffiti on campus and threatened to kill a witness won’t be charged for his behavior, the city’s top prosecutor announced Tuesday.
The announcement is a win for activists at the school who demanded that no charges be brought, though Madison’s district attorney denied those protests influenced his decision.
In mid-April, Denzel “King Shabazz” McDonald was arrested by police in the middle of class after police identified him as the man responsible for a wave of graffiti around campus. The graffiti, which is estimated to have caused about $4,000 in property damage, consisted of phrases like “The devil iz a white man” and “Death to the pigz [police].” Police recommended 11 criminal counts of graffiti and one count of disorderly conduct for allegedly threatening to kill a bystander who caught him in the act.
But Dane Country district attorney Ismael Ozanne says no charges will be forthcoming. Instead, McDonald will be referred to a diversion program, and if he completes it the case will not be included on his permanent record.
Ozanne, a Democrat, said widespread campus protests in support of McDonald played no role in his decision. He also said it was his belief that UWM police were, if not supportive of, then at least not opposed to the decision.
“When I and a deputy met with McDonald and his attorney, it was clear he understood the seriousness of his behavior and that although he was trying to exercise his First Amendment rights, the way he went about it affected the impact of his message,” Ozanne said, according to The Cap Times.
This is actually McDonald’s second offense. He was cited by police for graffiti in 2015. Ozanne discounted this previous offense, though, by pointing towards brain science, saying McDonald may simply have needed more time to grow up and learn to control his impulses.
The announcement may not be enough to placate activists, though. In addition to demanding no charges against McDonald, they have also demanded the resignations of the police officers and administrators involved in McDonald’s arrest. Thus far, UWM police say they have no plans to fire any officers over the arrest.
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