A black man who says he was given a noose as a gift is concerned the hate crime is not being vigorously prosecuted. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
A noose as a gift. Was it a joke or a hate crime?
The issue is playing out in court. But Victor Sheppard, the black man who was given the noose, and his supporters say it's nothing to laugh about.
"This is not a joking matter," said the Rev. Kevin McCall of the National Action Network. "Mr. Sheppard didn't laugh at all. He was very devastated. He couldn't even continue his route."
Joe Ottomanelli from the famed Ottomanelli and Sons butcher shop in Greenwich Village was charged with a misdemeanor of aggravated harassment for giving the noose to Sheppard back in April. He had a court appearance on Thursday.
Outside the butcher shop, he told friends and workers to tell me he gets along with everyone.
"Karen, tell him how much of a bad person I am," Ottomanelli said.
Sheppard, who's from Harlem, was making a meat delivery to the shop when he says Ottomanelli told him the noose made of thick yellow rope was a gift, and if he ever felt stressed out or wanted to end his life to put the noose around his neck, and that he could help.
Sheppard says everyone in the shop was laughing.
When asked if he gave Sheppard the noose, Ottomanelli said no. He said someone else gave the noose.
Ron Kuby is Ottomanelli's defense lawyer. He admits the noose was ugly, stupid and hateful, but he says it is not a crime.
"It is more than just ugly and hateful. It is definitely a crime. And that is why the detective investigated, and that is why he was arrested," McCall said. "So Ron Kuby doesn't know what the hell he is talking about when he saying that it wasn't a crime. It was a crime, and that is why we are in court."
The defense asked for the case to be adjourned until September for motions.
Representatives for Sheppard say they want to make sure Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance continues to take this case very seriously."
"We need to have the city of New York take this case seriously and move it forward. Justice delayed is just denied," said Wylie Stecklow, Sheppard's lawyer. "Hopefully, when Mr. Sheppard is allowed to have his day in court, Ottomanelli will learn that using a noose to give to an African-American is not a joke."
They say they are calling for an emergency meeting with the district attorney to make sure the prosecution is an aggressive one.