- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

GERING, Neb. (AP) - Scotts Bluff County prosecutors have appealed a judge’s dismissal of a hate crime count against a teen accused of writing a racial epithet on a classmate’s car window.

Scotts Bluff County Attorney Jeremy Anderson appeared at a hearing on the appeal Friday and will submit a brief by March 19 outlining his arguments against County Judge James Worden’s dismissal of the case, The Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1ntjuba ) Saturday.

Last month, Worden ended a trial and dismissed the case against Alysha Schwartzkopf, 18, of Gering.

Schwartzkopf was accused of scrawling a racial epithet in October on the car windows of a Gering High School senior who is biracial. She was charged with unauthorized application of graffiti, with a felony enhancement of committing a hate crime.

The graffiti charge carries a maximum sentence of three months in jail and a $500 fine, but with the hate crime enhancement, Schwartzkopf faced up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But Worden agreed with Schwartzkopf’s attorney, who said state law regarding graffiti applied only to buildings and other structures, not car windows. Worden emphasized that he was ruling only on the applicability of the law, not on the facts of the case.

But Anderson argues that Worden misinterpreted the state law and that a vehicle is considered a structure.

Even if Anderson wins the appeal, Schwartzkopf can’t be retried, because doing so would amount to double jeopardy. Instead, the ruling on the appeal will be an advisory one, setting precedent to be considered in future cases regarding the state’s graffiti law.

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Information from: Star-Herald, https://www.starherald.com

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