All charges against both boys have been filed in Northampton County Juvenile Court. Since neither has a history with police, both will be offered participation in a diversionary program called informal adjustment, in which the charges are ultimately dismissed after a period of probation.
Morganelli found the video to be "outrageous, insulting, demeaning and a video that seriously disparages the African American male's physical characteristics and specifically his African American race."
Though he declined to release the video, but detailed why it appalled him. It was a video of the 16 year-old black boy eating chicken, with a running commentary by the white 14 year-old, which he them distributed to others on Snapchat.
"So there's a chicken eating contest here. This f---in' n----- is taking his time. He's getting free f---in' chicken, you n-----. It has been a minute and he's on the same f---in' wing. Oh, now the black kid is taking the wings back up to his seat. What, what, are you that broke?" At this point, "His welfare check canceled" scrolls across the screen.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police crime records, 1,975 people have been victimized statewide by hate crimes, or ethnic intimidation, since 2000. The statute requires an underlying offense like cyber harassment, which is alleged to have occurred here. Ethnic intimidation occurs if the underlying offense is committed because of the person's race, color, religion or ethnic heritage.
Morganelli noted that after announcing his intention to investigate this matter, he received a number of complaints that he was infringing on people's free speech rights. He acknowledged that people have a First Amendment right to be bigoted. But he explained that the statute does not punish bigoted thought or speech. It merely provides for an enhanced punishment against someone who commits crimes against others based on their ethnicity or race.
In the past, Morganelli has been a defender of free speech.
- He dismissed Flag law violations against a Washington Township protester who flew the American flag upside down.
- He dismissed disorderly conduct charge against anti-war activists who were peaceably assembled outside the Palmer Township post office on income tax day.
- He dismissed the most serious charges against "Nature Dave," a bank protester who walked inside an Easton bank with a sign declaring, "You're being robbed."
- In the most recent presidential election, he dismissed littering charges filed against a West Easton woman who was placing Donald Trump signs on utility poles.
He said those cases are a far cry from a crime committed against someone simply because of his color or ethnicity.
Morganelli hopes the charges filed here send the message that "this kind of conduct will not be tolerated. ... Harassment, whether it's based on race or otherwise, is a crime."
"Maybe next time our office won't be so generous," he concluded.