A white university student accused of branding her roommate a “Jamaican Barbie” and smearing used tampons on her backpack is not racist, her lawyer has claimed.
Brianna Brochu, a former student at the University of Hartford, Connecticut, is charged with criminal mischief and breach of the peace, but activists want the 18-year-old charged with a hate crime.
Ms Brochu allegedly bragged online about her bullying, describing how she spat in Chennel Rowe’s coconut oil and put her toothbrush “where the sun doesn’t shine”, reports the Hartford Courant.
She was later banned from campus by a local community court judge.
“After 1½ month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons oh [sic] her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more, I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie,” Ms Brochu wrote on Instagram, according to court records.
On Tuesday, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) arrived outside the Hartford courthouse to demand prosecutors charge Ms Brochu with a hate crime, reports CBS News.
But Ms Brochu’s lawyer, Tom Stevens, said he did not expect authorities to file hate crime charges and that his client regretted her actions.
"I think this is sort of not the case that you all have been fanning the flame on,” he said outside court, according to the Courant. “I think when it’s all said and done, what you’re going to see is there was nothing racial that motivated this.
"This was two students who were placed together, I think randomly… who didn’t like each other, like has been happening since kids went to school and became roommates.”
Gail Hardy, Hartford’s State Attorney, said additional information was being reviewed at the request of Ms Rowe’s lawyer.
Ms Brochu has admitted licking her former roommate’s plate, fork, and spoon and smearing bodily fluid on her victim’s backpack, but denies the other accusations she posted on Instagram, according to the local newspaper.
In a Facebook post which has been viewed more than a million times, Ms Rowe said she had developed throat pain and had been unable to sleep or speak.
University health workers had prescribed antibiotics but failed to work out what was causing the “bad bacteria”, she said.
“As a young African American woman I don’t want to become another statistic,” Ms Rowe wrote in a separate Facebook post. “When it comes to college incidents/crimes and racial cases justice needs to be served.”
Greg Woodward, the university’s president, sent a letter to Hartford teachers and students on Tuesday, calling Ms Brochu’s alleged behaviour “reprehensible”.
“Acts of racism, bias, bullying, or other abusive behaviours will not be tolerated on this campus,” Mr Woodward said. “I pledge to do everything in my power to work with our community to address related concerns together.”
Ms Rowe had been quickly relocated after she reported the allegations, he added, and Ms Brochu had subsequently been arrested by the West Hartford Police Department.
Speaking to local TV station Fox61, Ms Rowe said she believes the case would have played out differently if the roles were reversed, because of her race.
“I probably would’ve been locked up. A whole of a bunch of stuff would’ve been done quickly,” she said.