Editor’s Note: This story contains quoted language that may be offensive to some readers.
MANCHESTER, NH – A 19-year-old Berlin man will serve no jail time for his part in last year’s Black Lives Matters protest because, a judge said, he should be treated the same as his accomplice.
Last January, Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District Judge N. William Delker gave Antwan Stroud a 12-month jail sentence, with all but 30 days suspended, after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of riot. His accomplice, Kyle Toldeo, 21, of Hooksett, received no jail time. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence, had to perform 50 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to Officer Mark Aquino after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct.
On Friday, Delker issued the exact same sentence for Stroud.
It came after Stroud’s new attorneys, Michael Eaton and Donna Brown, asked the judge to vacate his sentence or resentence Stroud because others arrested – Toledo in particular – received no jail time. Delker agreed to resentence him.
They contended Stroud was sentenced more harshly because he is Black while his co-defendants are White.
Delker said the case is not about racial bias. The issue, he said, is treating accomplices, who act in tandem with one another, the same. He said he still believes the original 30-day sentence he gave Stroud was fair and just, given what he did to Officer Mark Aquino.
However, he said since he sentenced Stroud last January, the focus in the case “has changed in my mind very fundamentally.”
He said from the outset, police and prosecutors treated Stroud and Toledo as accomplices and the charges brought against both mirrored one another.
Delker said the state attempted to justify the different sentencing outcomes between Stroud and Toledo by various conduct and culpability and “ultimately I just don’t find that convincing.” He said the state has tried to focus on an isolated incident to justify the differences in sentences but “I just can’t do that. That’s not the purpose of sentencing. The purpose of sentencing is to look at the big picture.”
Delker said “if it were a blank slate” he would still sentence Stroud to 30 days in jail but “legally” he felt he had to sentence him “commensurate to what Toledo received.”
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Thomas Craig played a video of the incident which took place on June 2, 2020, on South Willow Street and was filmed by Stroud who later posted it on his Facebook page. Stroud’s voice can be heard egging on protesters who surround Officer Aquino’s cruiser, which was stopped at a stoplight. Stroud spits on the cruiser.
Stroud is yelling: “I will slap one of you n—s,” “Roll your window up pussy,” and “Run this bitch ass n—- out this shit.” The protesters repeatedly chant, “Black Lives Matter.”
Aquino called for backup because of the protesters’ actions.
Craig asked the judge to watch Toledo, the only protester in a blue shirt, who is walking but not yelling or giving the officer the middle finger, as others are. Toledo was charged with tossing a firecracker over a group of people.
Aquino also gave a brief statement. He did not call for Stroud to be jailed but said his actions that night were irresponsible. He said there was a lot of turmoil and what Stroud did could have caused serious harm to protesters, as well as to himself.
Brown, after the sentencing, said the entire situation was scary for Stroud, the thought of going to jail was a big deal to him.
Stroud moved from Nashua to Berlin, and is now working on earning his GED.
He said he is glad the case is finally over. He participated in the protests, which took place after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The killing was recorded by teen Darnella Frazier, who was awarded an honorary Pulitzer Prize. Stroud said when he first saw that video he thought it could have been him.
In Manchester, he said he was stopped by police at gunpoint several times “for no reason. So I just thought it could have been me one day.” Things are “way different” up in Berlin, he said. He intends to stay in the North Country.
As part of the defense’s sentencing recommendation documents, Stroud penned a letter to Delker. In it, Stroud said the thought of going to jail has changed him. He said although his experiences with racism led him to be there that night, “I let my emotions get the better of me and I know that what I did was wrong. I am usually a very calm and shy person, but my anger at the racism I have seen and experienced came out that night. It is not an excuse for my behavior, but I have experienced racism throughout my life.”
Stroud said in school kids would call him “blackie” or “porch monkey.”
“It has been hard being a Black person in New Hampshire,” he wrote.