A judge in Illinois handed down an unconventional punishment to a teen convicted in a noose attack. Matthew Herrmann, 19, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery for helping to put a noose around the neck of a Black teen, and received a probation sentence, alongside the writing assignment.
In accordance with his punishment Herrmann must read his written work on lynching as it relates to Black history, at a meeting of victims and community members known as a “peace circle.”
Herrmann participated in the crime back in 2011, and initially faced felony counts of committing a hate crime, battery, and unlawful restraint. He and two cohorts lured their victim, 17-year-old Joshua Merritt, to one of their homes where he was restrained, and called the n-word. They also made threats on the teen’s life, putting a knife to his throat.
The attack was apparently brought on by Merritt’s relationship with a cousin of one of the three involved.
Merritt’s father, William Merritt, says his son has to undergo therapy as a result of the incident. “This has changed his whole life,” he said. “The way he looks at people, the way he tries to make friends—that changes a teen.”
William blamed a failure on the part of authorities to bring charges against Merritt as the reasoning behind the light sentence, but feels that the outcome is “best,” based on how the case was presented. “You have to look at it as them being teens and not understanding the history behind what they had done,” he explained. “Maybe if they had learned more in school they would understand the level of their behavior.”
Herrmann was happy with the outcome, which keeps him from doing jail time. “I’ve learned the justice system is fair,” he said.
Photo: Chicago Police Dept.