No Charges Filed After 'Racial Hate Crimes' Against Utah Basketball Team

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The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho prosecutor's office has declined to file charges after the Utah women's basketball team said they experienced "racial hate crimes" ahead of their NCAA tournament game, per CNN.

The Utes were staying at a hotel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho before their first-round game against South Dakota State in March when alleged "racial hate crimes" unfolded while they were out for dinner in the area.

Utah officials previously confirmed that passengers from a vehicle driving past the team as they were on the way to dinner “shouted racial epithets at the group.” When the Utes were walking back from the dinner, a vehicle revved its engine at the team while passengers again hurled “racially disparaging words and threats,” Utah officials previously said.

Following a full investigation into the incident, Chief Deputy City Attorney Ryan Hunter wrote Friday (May 3) that the prosecution wouldn't pursue charges in connection to the incident because there was “insufficient evidence to establish probable cause as to every element of any of the potential offense(s) without reliance on First Amendment protected speech.”

The Coeur d'Alene Police Department interviewed roughly two dozen witnesses and compiled hours of surveillance video amid the investigation, according to a complaint review written by Hunter. Police ultimately identified four people in the vehicle including one individual as the person who made an offensive statement.

According to Hunter, an 18-year-old high school student admitted to directing the N-word toward the team, but he later retracted part of his police statement. Hunter wrote Friday that he condemned the teen's comment but the conduct "cannot, under current law, form the basis for criminal prosecution in this case."

Utah beat South Dakota State in the first round of the tournament before losing their second game against Gonzaga 77-66. The games were hosted at Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington, but the team initially stayed in Coeur d'Alene due to limited hotel availability.

At the time, Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said the women's team switched hotels after the alleged racial abuse.

“For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA tournament environment, it’s messed up, and so we moved hotels,” she said. “The NCAA and [host university] Gonzaga worked to get us in a new hotel and we appreciate that. That’s what happened. It was a distraction and upsetting and unfortunate.

According to Hunter, there was no audio evidence of any vehicles revving their engines or of a racial slur being hurled as the team walked to dinner. However, police said five credible witnesses confirmed the slur was used.

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