Spitting on someone would potentially be considered a hate crime in Maryland under a bill that Del. Dan Cox is proposing.
The measure, called the “John Weed Dignity Act,” is named for the 59-year-old man who died after being assaulted at The Great Frederick Fair last week.
It would amend the state’s hate crimes statue to add “dignity of the human body” and “intentionally” spitting on someone as things to be considered when authorities investigate possible hate crimes.
Cox’s bill would also make it a potential hate crime to attack someone for refusing to donate money.
Under current law, authorities can consider something a hate crime if a crime is specifically committed because of another’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability or national origin.
Video of the assault at the fair that was posted on social media shows John Weed, a white man, being attacked by suspects who are black. When Weed is on the ground he is spat on.
Two teens, ages 15 and 16, were arrested and charged with assault.
A judge ruled that the suspects must remain in custody at least until court hearings are held next month.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said the 16-year-old started the incident after he asked Weed for a dollar and Weed refused.
“It wasn’t a premeditated homicide,” Smith said. “It doesn’t appear, at this point in time, to be a specific intent-to-kill homicide, but a person’s dead and so our job is to hold them accountable.”
County deputies received a report of the assault near the midway area of the fairgrounds Friday evening. They found Weed unconscious on the ground. He was flown to a hospital, where he died on Saturday.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating.
Smith said that during the attack on Weed, there was another incident at the fair involving a group of teens. He said there is no information that indicates that it was gang-related, or that Weed’s attack was related to the separate incident.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to collect money for Weed’s family.