Sept. 24, 1990: Yale officials search for author of hate letter

Investigators seeking the author of an anonymous hate letter sent to 10 African-American students at the Law School last week will not reveal whether they have developed any strong leads.

Meanwhile, President Benno Schmidt Jr. yesterday issued a statement condemning the racist letters as a “vile act.” Schmidt also extended his sympathy to recipients of the letter, all African Americans at Yale, and to the female law student who was sexually assaulted Sept. 9. The letters were apparently a response to the assault.

A box containing 10 typed letters in hand-addressed envelopes was placed in the student mailroom last Monday night. The note said an off-campus assault was “done by two black men” and contained a racial epithet. Three students had picked up the hate letter, which was signed “Yale Students for Racism,” before police confiscated the rest from mailboxes and took fingerprints last Tuesday morning.

Yale Police would not sat Friday whether detectives had turned up any leads in their investigation or how long the search might take. Commander James Perrotti confirmed Yale is working with New Haven detectives and agents from the Connecticut office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

New Haven Police spokeswoman Judith Mongillo had no comment Friday on her department’s role in the search for the author of the racist letters and for the perpetrators of the sexual assault.

The FBI has assigned a “senior, experienced agent” to assist Yale Police in the search and has offered the bureau’s crime lab expertise, said Milt Ahlerich, the head of the FBI’s Connecticut office. Ahlerich would not comment on details of the inquiry.

Investigators have not yet established whether a law student or students authored the note, said Professor Burke Marshall, the Law School’s liaison to the investigators.

The selection of the black law students to receive the letters and a reference to “one of our classmates” in the note “may be an indication that it was written by a student, but it may be intended to be an indication [made by an outside perpetrator],” Marshall said.

Investigators are uncertain if the perpetrator will face criminal charges. Federal civil rights statutes do not appear to be applicable, according to Marshall. Ahlerich also did not believe the author of the note could face legal charges.

The state has criminal statutes for hate crimes, but Perrotti said the police had not yet determined possible charges.

Schmidt’s statement indicated the note would not be protected under Yale’s free speech policies. But University policy remains uncertain, as no official response has yet been issued to the 1989 Adair review of Yale’s free expression policies.

Schmidt’s statement said: “The off-campus assault of a Yale law student was a barbarous act. On behalf of the Yale population, I extend my deepest sympathy to the victim. The subsequent letter inserted in the mailboxes of 10 black Yale law students was another vile act. Our sympathy and concern is extended to the recipients and the entire African-American community at Yale. The broadest protection for freedom of expression, including offensive and anonymous expression, does not extend to threats. We shall pursue the investigation with vigor.”

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