Campus investigators consulted with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office before dropping the investigation of a potential hate crime, Barnwell said.
“They said that, while offensive, it was a free speech issue,” he said.
The four students would have had to commit another type of crime while painting the offending words for the university to pursue hate crime charges, Barnwell said. If the graffiti had been painted on just about any other structure on campus, for example, investigators could have used charges of defacing public property and the nature of the language as an aggravating factor to treat it as a hate crime. In the tunnel, though, graffiti is encouraged.
As Holmes read to me the official’s remarks, I retorted with some sarcasm to the effect that his comments were, in fact, not excrement.