EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 3, 2012

Assault case considered hate crime

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CONCORD (AP) — Two New Hampshire men have been indicted on charges of yelling a racial slur at an African-American man, then pulling him off his moped and beating him.

Donald Freese of Concord and Joshua Peno of Nottingham, both 21, were indicted by a Merrimack County grand jury last month on charges of accomplice to simple assault related to the July 31 beating in Hooksett.

The two are accused of yelling at the man out of a car window. The man pulled up and asked what they had called him. Police said they started hitting him on the head and threw him to the ground.

Freese also was indicted on a felony criminal threatening charge, accused of brandishing a knife at the man.

Police said Peno’s girlfriend, Nicolette Nicolaides, was driving the car. An affidavit said after the beating, she tried to drive away, but her car was out of gas. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

While the assault charges are misdemeanors, the county attorney’s office is prosecuting them under a statute that allows for an extended sentence for hate crimes. If convicted, both men could face two to five years in prison, instead of a year.

Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray said the case is the first one his office has prosecuted alleging a crime motivated by hostility toward a victim’s race.

A lawyer for Freese said his client denies the charges. A lawyer representing Peno didn’t return a call seeking comment.