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Man who put noose on teen jailed 60 days

When a judge ordered Louis J. Giannola IV to jail last month for placing a hangman's noose around a black teen's neck, the 20-year-old's face burned red with grief.

Giannola returned to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters' courtroom Monday to learn whether he would spend even more time behind bars.

This time, when Peters issued a final sentence of 60 days in jail, Giannola simply nodded. And when the judge ordered him to do 50 hours of community service, Giannola asked him to double it.

"I take full blame for what I have done, and from this I have learned another lesson within itself," Giannola read in a statement. "Regret has stowed upon me as I reflect back on my actions."

Prosecutors charged Giannola with a hate crime for placing the noose around 14-year-old Dionte Hall's neck inside a Wendy's near Largo High School in January 2004. If convicted of the felony, Giannola could have faced as much as five years in prison. A jury took about 20 minutes in December to convict Giannola of misdemeanor battery but spared him the felony charge. The jury thought Giannola's actions were wrong but not motivated by prejudice.

He spent 21 days behind bars, including Christmas and his 20th birthday, before Peters granted him a $5,000 bail and he was released. He returned to court Monday knowing Peters could send him to jail for as much as a year.

Hall's parents, who attended the trial, did not attend the sentencing. Prosecutor Joe Bulone said he thought they were "a little weary of the whole thing." Hall's mother, Cheryl Hall, declined comment Monday evening other than to say they were glad the case was over.

Bulone suggested Peters consider the use of the noose, as well as racial slurs bystanders heard, during sentencing. He said Hall, who reacted calmly after the incident and reported it to authorities, "put his faith in the system and the police and the court."

Giannola's mother and aunt spoke on his behalf, as did Giannola's boss at an aircraft company in Las Vegas. He moved there to live with relatives after the incident.

They said Giannola finished high school, attended community college, worked his job dutifully and even started his own business detailing planes. They described his act with the noose as a stupid prank egged on by peers, including one girl who offered him $10 to do it.

Family members also suggested the incident was a turning point in Giannola's life, that it turned an aimless and flagging teen into a young man with purpose and focus.

Giannola will receive credit for the time he has already served in jail. He could be out by the end of the month. He also must serve 10 months of probation.