No Hate Crime Charges for Rainbow Times Newspaper Box Explosion
The suspects—23-year-old John Richard, of Hollis, New Hampshire, and 20-year-old Lawrence Gilman, of Milford, New Hampshire—have both been summonsed to Salem District Court on charges for the use of explosives and destruction of property. The charges come after security video surfaced of a crew of people dressed in dark clothing, who place something in the newspaper box and then run away before it explodes in dramatic fashion.
Richard and Gilman are not, however, facing charges for a hate crime.
Salem Police Capt. Conrad Prosniewski, spokesman for his department, says that is because there was no proof that the box, which contained a paper that is outspoken about gay culture and gay rights, had been targeted for that reason. The suspects have insisted they picked the box at random, he says.
“That was something that was discussed with the District Attorney’s office and with the victims in this crime, and it’s tough to get inside somebody’s head,” Prosniewski says. “Is there enough evidence to present to a court for probable cause that this was a a crime motivated by hate? That’s a tough hurdle.”
Police have also identified the other people who were pictured in the footage of the explosion, Prosniewski says, but only the two who were most involved in setting off the device are facing charges at this time. They did not come forward on their own, he says.
Richard and Gilman are both due in court on Friday at 9 a.m. More information is due to be released after the arraignment.
The explosion had been the latest in a series of acts of apparent vandalism—the Times had already logged 10 complaints with the local police about its boxes being defaced. There is also no evidence linking the suspects to those previous crimes.
In an interview, the co-owners of the Rainbow Times say they cooperated with police throughout the investigation, are thankful for the department’s diligence, and understand why hate crime charges can’t be brought. But still, they are convinced that a hate crime took place.
“We are thrilled to know that the individuals responsible for the reckless explosion of the Rainbow Times newspaper box will be held accountable and brought to justice for such a malicious and cowardly act against our community,” says Nicole Lashomb, the paper’s editor-in-chief. “We also understand that because there isn’t that piece of physical evidence, hate crimes in general are very difficult to prove and prosecute.”
Meanwhile, it’s been a tense couple months for the organization, says publisher Gricel M. Ocasio. Contributors have worried about follow-up violence, supporters have written in to share concerns about hostility against their community, and a newspaper delivery woman told her she was fearful every time she opened a Rainbow Times newspaper box that it might explode.
“We lost sleep,” Ocasio says. “I think we were emotionally traumatized.”
The community did quickly come to the Times’ aid, though. Just five days after the explosion, they organized a rally at the site where the newspaper box had been, and installed a new one.
— TheRainbowTimes (@therainbowtimes) September 8, 2016