Judge throws out case against UVM student for 'racist and threatening language'

Published: Jan. 2, 2018 at 11:49 AM EST
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A Burlington judge has thrown out a case against a University of Vermont student accused of using "explicitly racist and threatening language" against black students and diversity initiatives on campus.

"This is a case that never should have been brought against him," said Ben Luna, Wesley Richter's lawyer.

In October, the UVM continuing education student was cited by police for a charge of disorderly conduct after university officials said he used "explicitly racist and threatening language" against black students and diversity initiatives on campus. But after nearly two months of review, a Burlington judge has decided there was no probable cause and on Tuesday dismissed the case.

"It is what it is. We put our best case forward. The judge looked at the law. We see it differently, but that's what the process is for," said Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George.

George confirmed that her office received the judge's decision, which remains private under seal. But George says she still backs the decision to file the charge in the first place. "What we allege he did, we still allege he did. It just didn't rise to the level of a hate crime."

While courtroom discussion revealed statements were made in a phone conversation, exactly what Richter allegedly said still remains unknown. Police, prosecutors and university officials have declined to release details, and an affidavit that would have revealed them was never made public since the judge never found probable cause.

"This opinion is a victory for the first amendment. This opinion is a victory for free speech on university campuses," Luna said. The former deputy state's attorney says Richter continues to deny claims made by the state. "The University of Vermont, the University of Vermont Police Dept., and the Chittenden State's Attorney's Office all over-extended their consitutional power in this case in bringing this charge against my client."

The university says they hope to learn more about the judge's decision, and the state's attorney says there are no current plans to re-file charges.