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Man who noosed teen gets out of jail

A man convicted of placing a noose around a black teen's neck was released from jail this week after a judge granted him bail.

Louis J. Giannola spent 21 days behind bars _ including his 20th birthday and Christmas _ after Judge Timothy Peters ordered him jailed Dec. 8. Peters sent Giannola to jail after a jury convicted him of misdemeanor battery but spared him from a harsher felony hate crime conviction.

Peters' decision upset Giannola and his attorneys, who said the jailing during the holidays was too harsh for someone with no previous criminal record. They said most first-time offenders convicted of a misdemeanor would get probation and not jail time.

Giannola's attorneys, Sami Thalji and Barry K. Taracks, filed a motion asking Peters to set a reasonable bail.

Peters set bail at $5,000 on Tuesday. Giannola posted bail and was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday. Neither he nor his attorneys could be reached for comment Friday.

Prosecutors charged Giannola with a felony hate crime after he placed a hangman's noose around the neck of 14-year-old Dionte Hall in a Largo Wendy's on Jan. 14. If convicted of the felony, Giannola could have faced as much as five years in prison.

During a two-day trial in December, prosecutors said Giannola was motivated by hate when he placed the noose around Hall's neck. Hall was not physically injured, but the act is considered battery under Florida law because Giannola touched him against his will.

Giannola's attorneys argued that while he was foolish to use the noose, he was not motivated by prejudice. A biracial girl had offered him $10 to place the noose around Hall's neck.

A jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before deciding to convict Giannola of misdemeanor battery but not a hate crime.

Peters has set sentencing for Jan. 10. The maximum sentence for misdemeanor battery is a year in jail.

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