Two University of Wisconsin freshmen appeared in court Jan. 17 facing felony charges of disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property as hate crimes.
The students, Benjamin Chamberlain and Michael Riha, allegedly vandalized the dorm room door of a UW student and LGBT liaison in Ogg Hall Dec. 21, according to court documents.
Also charged and due to appear in Dane County Court Feb. 13 are Purdue University freshman Kevin Cochacki and Auburn University freshman Caleb Moore, both of whom were visiting Riha, their Naperville, Ill., high school friend.
According to court documents, Chamberlain is a U.S. Marine ROTC student, and Riha, Cochacki, and Moore are all members of Sigma Chi fraternity at their respective universities.
If convicted, Chamberlain, Cochacki and Moore could each face up to three years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Riha faces an additional charge of obstructing an officer. This charge came from repeated changes to his story to UWPD Detective Carol Ann Glassmaker, the criminal complaint states.
Riha could receive an additional $10,000 fine or nine months in jail.
When contacted late Wednesday night, the alleged victim declined comment on the December incident, and asked The Badger Herald to protect his anonymity.
According to the criminal complaint, the alleged victim said he was sleeping in his dorm room at around 2:30 a.m. Dec. 21 when he was awoken by male voices yelling, "All f*ggots should die! I hate f*cking f*ggots!"
The alleged victim then reportedly heard a male voice say "Oh, who wrote that?" followed by another voice saying "I wrote that."
The complaint then states the alleged victim said he opened the door to find saliva dripping down his door. His bulletin board, which LGBT posters had been ripped off of, now reportedly read, "I hate f*cking f*ggots! Die."
Chamberlain, from Crystal Lake, Ill., later confessed to writing this, the complaint states.
"I tore down a picture, I was showing off and saw a picture of two guys kissing," Chamberlain was quoted in the complaint. "I am conservative and had a problem with it. Why does the photo have to be displayed in public? Keep it to yourself. I tore it down."
The complaint stated the defendants went back three times to tear other LGBT posters down, and that all four were involved with the incident.
According to the complaint, Cochacki told police he was laughing but denied spitting on the board, although he was not asked about spitting.
After the incident, Riha reportedly brought his friends to his Sigma Chi fraternity house, and along the way Chamberlain yelled, "I hate f*cking f*ggots. I hate f*cking liberals."
Moore later told police, "[Chamberlain] was insane and he should be in jail."
The complaint states that Riha denied ripping the pictures down but subsequently confessed Dec. 22 when told there was a witness.
"I was showing them how liberal Madison was," he reportedly said.
According to the complaint, Riha apologized and pointed out the door of the alleged victim.
Although court documents indicate Riha has moved from his former residence on the second floor of Ogg West to the Sigma Chi fraternity house, UW Housing Director Paul Evans said none of the defendants have been asked to vacate their residence.
"They wouldn't be removed because they're in the student conduct process," he said.
Evans said the Dec. 21 incident is not unprecedented in university housing, but could not recall the outcomes of past cases.
"It's not like this is the first time something of its kind [has] happened," Evans said. "We obviously hope that it doesn't and it's fortunate that it doesn't happen very often."
Were it not for the hate crime enhancers added, the disorderly conduct offenses would not be felonies.
According to Wisconsin law, a case can be tried as a hate crime if the defendants intentionally selected the person with whom the crime was committed because of belief about sexual orientation, whether or not the perception was correct.
As of press time, phone calls to Chamberlain, Riha, Cochacki and Moore went unanswered, as did phone calls to UW LGBT officials.