Two Miami University College Students Acquitted in Race Case: Defense Points Finger at Black Administrator, Both Sides Still Smarting

By Fisher, Mark | Black Issues in Higher Education, September 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Two Miami University College Students Acquitted in Race Case: Defense Points Finger at Black Administrator, Both Sides Still Smarting


Fisher, Mark, Black Issues in Higher Education


Two Miami University College Students Acquitted in Race Case: Defense points finger at Black administrator, both sides still smarting

OXFORD, Ohio -- The acquittal earlier this month of two former African American students accused of faking a racist hate crime at Miami University here has left faculty, staff and students split in their interpretations of the decision.

The jury, with seven White and one Black panelist, deliberated eight hours before finding Nathaniel Snow of Cincinnati and Brad Allen of suburban Cleveland not guilty of criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Snow and Allen, both 22, were accused of posting racist and homophobic fliers last year at Miami's Center for Black Culture and Learning. They were arrested in January and withdrew from school. The fliers triggered campus protests by students, including Snow and Allen, who claimed the university had not reacted swiftly enough to the incident.

The subsequent arrests of two prominent African American students -- Snow was president of the school's Black Student Action Association -- shocked the campus. But Snow and Allen strongly denied involvement and said they were being set up by the university they had criticized.

Miami University, located here in largely rural southwestern Ohio, has had difficulty attracting minority students. Last fall, a mere 3.8 percent of the public university's 16,000 students were African Americans.

Prosecutors based much of their case on fingerprint evidence -- Snow and Allen's prints were found on the fliers. But defense attorneys attacked the investigation by university police as sloppy and implied the fliers might have been posted by Sidney Carthell, Miami's director of the Center for Black Culture and Learning and assistant director for minority affairs.

Carthell, they contended, could have been motivated by his concern over the center's possible closing and by race relations at Miami.

In addition, Snow's attorney told jurors that even if the two students did post the racist fliers, that would not constitute crime because their actions would be protected by the First Amendment's free-speech protections.

"If they found fliers that say, `We Love Jesus,' we wouldn't be here," attorney Kenneth Lawson said in his opening statement.

Neither Snow nor Allen testified at trial, and their attorneys called no defense witnesses. Jurors who decided that prosecutors did not prove their case declined comment afterward.

"I'm just glad it's over," Allen told the Dayton Daily News after the verdicts. "But it's not redemption. A not-guilty verdict doesn't erase guilt in the minds of people."

Snow, who is considering re-enrolling at the Oxford campus to finish his studies, says, "Look at all of the lost time I can't be given back. …

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