Four teens who were arrested in June for a graffiti spree in an Arlington neighborhood and painted anti-gay remarks on a lesbian couple’s SUV won’t be prosecuted for a hate crime.
Daniel Sibley, 18, John Austin Cartwright, 17, Seth Stephen Hatcher, 18, and Morgen Rae Aubuchon, 18, were indicted Sept. 25 for a state jail felony of graffiti causing $1,500 to $20,000 in damage. The fifth person believed to be involved was a 16-year-old girl. She will undergo a process for juveniles.
Kim Lovering and her partner’s vehicles had “queer and faggot” spray-painted on them alongside a decal showing two moms with a child and pet, shown above.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Betty Arvin, who is the prosecutor for the four adult cases, said the incident of anti-gay graffiti could have been separated and charged as a misdemeanor. But the DA’s office instead chose to combine the cases — which include 13 individual incidents involving public signs, garage doors and vehicles — to obtain a state jail felony charge.
“We felt like we would have more flexibility and more options if we aggregated the cases so that’s what we did,” Ardin said. “But for a hate crime you’ve got to prove that the people involved specifically targeted a person or their property due to together their sexual orientation or their race, and we suspect it but we can’t prove that. Well, we certainly can’t prove it on all 13. … We can’t prove it on all of them and keep it a felony.”
The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. Ardin said if bias could have been proven in all the cases, the hate crime enhancement would have made the cases a third-degree felony and, if convicted, the teens could’ve faced two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.
The four indicted have court dates scheduled for Oct. 24, but Ardin said their cases are still being processed so she is unsure when a trial date will be set.