COURTS & LEGAL

‘His intent was to be funny’ Idaho prosecutor says in decision not to charge in U of U Women’s Basketball case

May 9, 2024, 7:17 PM | Updated: 7:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Fresh frustration over an Idaho prosecutor’s decision not to seek criminal charges against an 18-year-old accused of yelling racial slurs at members of the University of Utah Women’s basketball team.

The Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP is speaking out, saying they’re ‘disappointed’ in the decision by Coeur D’Alene City Deputy Attorney Ryan Hunter not to charge the teen, Anthony Meyers, in the case.

“There is a huge difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. There needs to be consequences for these actions. If not, it will happen again,” chapter president Jeanetta Williams wrote. “It is my hope that the NCAA will take into consideration of cities that are known to have radical groups to not hold their tournaments in these places.”

The statement from chapter president Jeanetta Williams.

The statement from chapter president Jeanetta Williams. (KSL TV)

Hunter wrote in a charging decision that Myers admitted to yelling a racial slur and an obscene phrase on the night of March 21 as the team was leaving a restaurant but that his actions didn’t meet the burden of proof for crimes of malicious harassment, disorderly conduct, or disturbing the peace.

“As to the first requirement of specific intent to intimidate or harass, there is insufficient evidence that Anthony Myers acted with a specific intent to intimidate or harass any specific person; on the contrary, the sum of the evidence supports that Mr. Myers’s intent was to be funny,” Hunter wrote.

He went on to clarify.

“Setting aside the rank absurdity of that claim and the abjectly disgusting thought process required to believe it would be humorous to say something that abhorrent, it nevertheless undermines that he had the required the specific intent to intimidate and harass.” Hunter continued in his report.

“But the more obvious missing element of this offense is that there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Myers coupled his detestable statements with a threat of physical harm or property damage that there was reasonable cause to believe would occur, much less any conduct that actually resulted in either,” Hunter said.

Idaho lawmakers question reports of U of U women’s basketball team’s racist harassment

KSL Legal Analyst Greg Skordas said he would have brought charges if it were him prosecuting this case.

“To me, that’s never funny in any context, whether it’s even to your friends or someone else. But it certainly wasn’t funny to the people it was directed at,” Skordas said.

Skordas believes that, at the very least, the disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace charges could have been brought.

“Any time you confront a group of people and especially a group of people who are of a certain race and make derogatory comments in their face from a vehicle and sexual comments, that that’s inappropriate,” Skordas said.

Hunter explained in the decision that he didn’t believe he could prove either of those because the incident happened on a “busy thoroughfare.”

Ultimately, Hunter wrote that he did not believe they could prove the case in court.

Skordas also said Meyer’s age and the city’s history of racist groups in the area may have contributed to the decision.

“I believe that a prosecutor has to look at his population, at his or her jury pool. And there are certain parts of the country well, where certain comments are more tolerated than others. And that was probably a problem that he had to face in that part of northern Idaho,” Skordas said.

The University of Utah declined to comment on the decision.

Prosecutors say ‘no evidence’ of racial slurs yelled on the way in

The incident involving Meyers happened as the team was leaving a restaurant called Crafted Tap House and Kitchen, and they were walking westbound on Sherman Avenue back towards the CDA Resort in multiple small groups.

In the same complaint, prosecutors say they don’t have evidence of any racial slurs being yelled at the team on the way into the restaurant but they do say there were three trucks “made significant noise while accelerating.”

In an initial report of the incident, a man with the U of U cohort claimed three trucks were revving their engines and yelled at the team, and then waited for them until they left.

Body camera footage released from report of racist attacks against U of U team in Idaho

“There exists no audio or video evidence to substantiate the initial report that several vehicles were revving their engines and speeding by in an intentional effort to intimidate and/or harass the U of U contingent as they traveled to or from dinner at Crafted. However, although not captured in an audio recording, five credible eyewitness statements confirmed that someone shouted the N-word at a particular member of the U of U contingent during their walk to Crafted,” Hunter wrote.

“Still, those accounts varied widely in the description of the vehicle and person(s) involved in shouting that racial slur, with the only uniformity as to the identity of the perpetrator being that it was a white male.” Hunter continued in his report.

Prosecutors also say they couldn’t tie the incident on the way into the one involving Meyers on the way out.

“There is no evidence whatsoever to establish a connection between that first incident and the second verified incident of racial harassment by Anthony Myers as the U of U contingent walked back from Crafted towards the CDA Resort,” the report stated.

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‘His intent was to be funny’ Idaho prosecutor says in decision not to charge in U of U Women’s Basketball case