The jail time comes as part of a plea agreement that will see 54-year-old Jerome Kevin Jackson of Princess Anne spending 18 months behind bars as well as paying $494 in restitution to the university, which is the amount of money it cost to clean the graffiti.
He was originally facing nearly 30 years in prison, but he will likely end up serving only around nine months before being paroled.
The racially charged vandalism led to a “great deal of fear” on campus as the graffiti messages were discovered in academic buildings. The FBI joined local law enforcement agencies in investigating the incidents.
Jackson “maliciously defaced property of Salisbury University while exhibiting racial animosity” in a way that’s “commonly referred to as a hate crime,” the State’s Attorney’s office contends.
It appears Jackson’s graffiti’s racial animosity was directed at his own people, with an earlier statement from the university saying that it “frightened members of our campus community, particularly Black and Brown students, faculty and staff.”
Images seen on social media show references to lynching black Americans; some of it has also been described as “gender-related discriminatory graffiti.” According to a video the NAACP chapter at the university posted on social media, some of the graffiti read, “Sandy Hook comes to SU,” followed by a racial slur.
Another message said, “It’s hang a [N-word] month” in an apparent reference to Black History Month in February.
Graffiti scared students and led to class cancellations
The school canceled classes in February in response to the threats in the graffiti and held a town hall meeting that attracted 200 people after an incident where racist graffiti was found in Henson Science Hall.
One student said at the time: “It directly targets black people and it’s terrifying,” apparently unaware that it was a black person making the threats in the first place.
Jackson didn’t speak in court, but his attorney speculates that his motivation was starting a conversation about race at the university. Although the university said at the time that the man had no known connection to the institution, it later emerged that his wife attended the school and now works in the admissions office of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have been able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackson defaced university property on three dates in October 2019 as well as once in November and once in February 2020.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes said that Jackson’s actions left lots of students at the university feeling unsafe. “People were scared, and in many ways rightfully scared,” he said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mike McDermott said: “Mr. Jackson wielded a very heavy hammer and that hammer was filled with racism, that hammer was filled with hate, and he used it to strike fear into the hearts of employees, staff members, faculty members, students and parents.”
According to the Vice President of Student Affairs at the university, Dr. Dane Foust, the fear caused by the incidents caused some students to leave the school and made their diverse enrollment drop by 30 percent.
In a separate incident in 2016, a group of African American students were found to be responsible for racist drawings on a whiteboard in a library on the same campus depicting a crying stick figure being lynched. The drawing included the hashtag #whitepower.
When the university announced that unnamed African-American students were behind the drawing, they came under fire for identifying the suspects by race and not by name, which they say signals the university thinks of its students by their ethnicity instead of their identity – creating a nice deflection from the fact that the perpetrators were black.
If racism really is so widespread, why do these people feel the need to invent it? Even though the guilty parties in these racism hoaxes have already been identified, don’t be surprised when the incidents are still somehow blamed on white people.
Sources for this article include: