Lauren Gibson has been officially charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief with a hate crime enhancement, which carries, at most, a one-year sentence, according to NPR.
The ACLU of Utah called the hate crime enhancement “an extremely chilling message.”
This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions,” the organization wrote in a statement.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Cree Carter said he had pulled over Gibson’s friend and a group of vehicles at a gas station when the teen took the pro-police sign out from the car and destroyed it. Carter said she wrecked the sign while “smirking in an intimidating manner” at him.
He also wrote that her alleged behavior should be labeled a hate crime due to “the demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a ‘Pro Law Enforcement’ sign.”
Gibson told the Daily Beast that she was appalled at the charges, explaining that the incident occurred after Carter treated her friend in an aggressive manner. “I just wanted to, I don’t know, make her feel better or something or stand up for her.” That’s when Gibson took the sign out from her car and allegedly stomped on it and threw it in the trash.
The deputy had pulled over the group of three vehicles when they were apparently going 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. Gibson claims that her friend was given a speeding ticket, while the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office said they let the drivers off with a warning.