The case of Courtney Thomas — the former Seaholm High School student charged with ethnic intimidation after he admitted to writing racist graffiti in a school bathroom last April — won't be going to trial after all.
Thomas, 19, accepted a plea bargain in front of Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander on Wednesday, pleading guilty to disturbing the peace in exchange for dropping the charge of ethnic intimidation. Thomas also was ordered to get mental health counseling.
By pleading guilty to disturbing the peace — a misdemeanor — Thomas could face up to 90 days in prison. Under the charge of ethnic intimidation, he was facing up to two years in prison or a $5,000 fine. A sentencing hearing was set for Oct. 5.
Thomas' case was pushed back twice in Circuit Court. After his arraignment June 22, his attorney Elbert Hatchett requested a four-week information gathering period, after which the pretrial period was adjourned for another month. In District Court, Thomas' first lawyer Wendy Barnwell also requested an information-gathering period in May before Thomas waived his preliminary hearing June 14 and went straight to Circuit Court.
Thomas was charged after admitting to writing racist graffiti in a Seaholm bathroom April 20. The graffiti was the first in a string of racist incidents at the high school, including more graffiti and racist notes delivered to African-American students and a teacher.
In court Wednesday, Thomas again admitted to writing the graffiti on the wall, creating what assistant prosecutor Brett Chudler called "quite a stir" at the school and in the community. Chudler said the mental health counseling requested by the prosecution is in the best interest of the community.
"We want to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.
Alexander brought Thomas' mother, Shelia Thomas, to the stand Wednesday, asking if she would be able to provide the counseling. Standing with the help of her son, she assured Alexander she would.
Chudler said the school hasn't been directly involved in the prosecution of the case and Birmingham Schools spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson said she couldn't comment on Thomas' trial.
She said the district is committed to the needs of all its students. "This is why we take these matters very seriously," she said.
Wikinson said the school still doesn't have any leads or suspects in the other incidents of racism that occured last spring at Seaholm, though school officials communicate frequently with the Birmingham Police Department.
New Seaholm principal Deana Lancaster said the high school has plans to address any lingering issues through active discussions on the part of students and staff.