A New York man convicted of harassing an autistic teen cross-country runner in October has been sentenced to three years’ probation and 80 hours of community service, the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle reports.
According to the report, Martin MacDonald, who shoved 15-year-old Chase Coleman because he apparently thought the teen, who is black, was going to rob his wife, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. The welfare charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
However, MacDonald’s sentence was in accordance with what prosecutors requested and included an order barring him from contacting Chase or his family for five years.
Prior to his sentencing , MacDonald read a statement apologizing to Chase and his family, who were in the courtroom at the time. MacDonald said that he had been volunteering with an autism advocacy group to learn more, and added that he had had no idea that Chase was autistic.
“I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” MacDonald said.
The fateful October encounter started when Chase was running a 5K for his high school, wearing a uniform and bib number. Originally, witnesses reported that MacDonald shoved Chase to the ground while yelling, “Get out of here!”
An earlier incident report indicated that when a deputy asked MacDonald why he had pushed the teen, MacDonald replied that he “thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse.” MacDonald’s wife was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car at the time of the incident.
The Democrat and Chronicle notes that another incident report suggested that Chase approached MacDonald and his wife while they were at their car and that MacDonald suspected that the teen was on drugs and mocked him because “he wasn’t acting right.”
Chase’s mother believes that the teen, who has difficulty communicating, got lost and had turned to MacDonald for help.
“I did appreciate his letter,” Chase’s mom, Clarise Coleman, said of MacDonald’s statement. “It was just a little too late.”
Read more at USA Today.