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2 teens accused of putting noose on black teen charged with hate crime

Matthew Herrmann, who allegedly put a noose around the neck of a black youth and held him captive at a Southwest Side home, were charged with a hate crime Feb. 2, 2012 in juvenile court. | Chicago Police Dept. photo

Two white teens who allegedly put a noose around the neck of a black youth and held him captive at a Southwest Side home were charged with a hate crime Thursday in juvenile court.

The 17-year-old boy – a former student of Brother Rice High School who was expelled after the incident was publicized last month – and a Morgan Park High School student, 16, both appeared before Judge Colleen Sheehan in their first court appearance in connection with the alleged Dec. 23 attack.

Both boys teamed up with former Brother Rice student Matthew Herrmann, 18, to target Joshua Merritt, 17, because they were allegedly unhappy that Merritt was friends with the 16-year-old’s female cousin, officials said.

Merritt – also a Brother Rice student – was allegedly held against his will at the 16-year-old’s home in the 1600 block of West 100th, threatened with a butterfly knife and targeted with racial epithets while a noose was placed around his neck.

The 16-year-old is being prosecuted by the Illinois Attorney General’s office to avoid any conflict of interest because his mother works as an administrator for the Cook County State’s Attorney.

His parents are trying to move him to another school for his own safety, his attorney said in court Thursday. Both he and the 17-year-old defendant are charged with a hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, intimidation, aggravated battery and battery.

Both youths were accompanied by their families in court Thursday. Wearing shirts and ties, they spoke only to identify themselves and to confirm that they understand they could be held in juvenile detention until they are 21 if convicted.

After the hearing, the 17-year-old’s attorney said his client was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The 16-year-old’s attorney declined to comment.

Herrmann was charged as an adult last month.