In West Hartford, Connecticut, 18-year-old Brianna Brochu plead not guilty on December 19th after being accused of contaminating her roommate’s personal belongings as part of a hate crime. According to Brochu’s Instagram account, she rubbed used tampons on the backpack of Chennel Rowe, Brochu’s roommate. Brochu also claimed in the Instagram post to have licked Rowe’s eating utensils, as well as putting Rowe’s toothbrush “where the sun doesn’t shine”, presumably referring to her anus. Rowe says she believes Brochu also spit in her coconut oil and added “moldy clam dip” to other lotions over the course of the previous month. Brochu is awaiting a trial by jury, which is initially scheduled for January 29, where she will be officially tried on charges of criminal mischief and breach of peace
The crime was initially reported to potentially be one of a hateful nature, especially after Rowe told The Hartford Courant that Brochu “ignored her and treated her as a ghost.” Rowe is African-American and Brochu is Caucasian, so that factor combined with the general iciness demonstrated toward Rowe led the NAACP and other local civil rights groups to urge the courts to add a hate crimes charge to the processing. NAACP president Scot Esdaile later expressed disappointment at the lack of a hate crimes aspect in the charges, and believes that this was due in part to the prosecutors not considering the case as urgently as civil rights groups believed it to be.
Brochu’s legal team, for their part, has denied that Brochu’s actions were at all racially motivated. Brochu, who was expelled from the University of Hartford after reports of these incidents came to light, admits that there was no relationship between the roommates. Brochu says that Rowe was similarly cold towards her, exhibiting rudeness and posting videos of Brochu online without her consent. In the process of Brochu’s expelling, she lost the rights to an $80,000 scholarship she had earned that allowed her to attend the university for the next four years.
The evening after Brochu’s expelling and the circumstances surrounding that decision became public, the University of Hartford organized a student meeting led by Greg Woodward, the university’s vice president of student affairs and director of public safety. Woodward acknowledged in that meeting, as well as in a public statement, that the university still had work to do in the field of fostering a respectful on-campus environment. However, the statement also assured students and parents that the school took action as soon as the allegations against Brochu were raised to university officials.