Matthew Herrmann was sentenced to researching and explaining the history of lynching in America. Herrmann plead guilty to battery charges after he and two friends placed a noose around the neck of an African American teenager.
In an unusual court ruling, Judge James Linn of Cook County, tacked homework onto a probation sentence.
Matthew Hermann, one of three teenagers accused of putting a noose around the neck of a 17-year-old African American student and shouting racial slurs at him, pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor battery charge. On Wednesday Hermann was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to write an essay on the history of lynching in America.
"They didn't give me a word count," Hermann told reporters from the Chicago Tribune. "I guess I'll just do a three-page, average paper that I would do for school." Hermann is philosophy major at Moraine Valley Community College.
The essay assignment was not the only unusual condition of the sentence. Lin also ordered Hermann to participate in a "peacemaking circle" with the victim, his family, clergy, and school counselors. The "peacemaking circle" is often used in juvenile court, but this was the first time it has been used to resolve a felony case in Cook County. Hermann, who was 18 at the time of the assault, was charged as an adult.
One of the other teenagers charged in the case, who was 17 at the time and pleaded guilty to battery, was also sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to take part in the peacemaking circle.
The noose attack against 17-year-old Joshua Merritt happened in December 2011. According to the Chicago Tribune, Hermann and two friends, upset that Merritt was friends with one of the boys' female cousins, forcibly put a noose around his neck and shouted racial epithets at him. One of the boys, then 16, also threatened Merritt's life and held a knife to his neck. Merritt was able to escape, and at the time of the attack, told the Tribune if he hadn't run away he "might be dead."