In the Aug. 26 issue of the Star Journal, we brought you the story of an alleged hate crime incident that occured on Aug. 12 in the City of Rhinelander (Click here to read original story). There is now a conclusion to that story.
At the time of the story (an in-depth interview of 14-year-old Cailee Schmieding and her mother, Julie Zippay-Larson on the alleged incident, and the buzz surrounding the Facebook video Zippay-Larson had posted detailing the alleged incident), the investigation was ongoing, and we vowed to bring our readers information once the investigation was concluded. On Friday afternoon, press statements released by both the City of Rhinelander Police Department and the Oneida County District Attorney’s office indicated that the investigation into the incident was complete, and it was determined that no hate crime actually occured.
“After a thorough and complete investigation by the Rhinelander Police Department, the evidence clearly and indisputably indicates that there were no threats of any nature, made by any person, at any time, against the child (14-year-old Cailee Schmieding) on Aug. 12,” wrote Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Steven M. Michlig. “The child was not present during the verbal dispute between her uncle and his neighbor. At no time was the child mentioned or alluded to during their childish tiff. There is no basis to find that a hate crime or any other crime was committed against the child.”
In the release from the police department, Police Chief Michael Steffes writes, “It is the mission of the Rhinelander Police Department to reduce the levels of fear, crime and disorder in our community, In any investigation, the truth much be our primary objective. Although the timliness of any investigation is critical, the quality of an investigation can never deteriorate due to hasty decisions or the desire for quick, unfounded conclusions.”
When reached for further comment Friday afternoon, Steffes indicated that while he was still displeased with the manner in which his department responded to the initial complaint and the follow-up, he is confident in the final results of the investigation.
“I don’t blame (Cailee’s mother) Julie (Zippay) Larson at all for feeling slighted and taking action by posting the video,” said Steffes. “The allegations were incredibly serious, and she had every right to be upset.”
“The intent of placing this report on our website is for all citizens to have a chance to review this full investigation and to maintain departmental transparency and accountability,” said Steffes. “Any harassment of any individuals named withing this report will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Editor’s note: Please note in our original story, as it was an ongoing investigation, we did not name the alleged perpetrator, the full name of the teenage accuser or even the neighborhood of the city in which the alleged incident took place. As other media have picked up the story, that information, and much more, has come out. It was and is not the intention of the Star Journal to wrongfully accuse anyone of a hate crime. However, given the viral nature of the online video and serious allegations connected to it, we could not ignore it.