Washington state teen pleads not guilty in social media hate case

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A university student in Washington state pleaded not guilty on Friday to a hate crime charge stemming from a post on the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak, court officials said.

Tysen Campbell, 19, who attends Western Washington University in Bellingham, was charged with one count of malicious harassment for writing, "Let's lynch her," on Yik Yak, referring to another student, the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said.

He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Friday, the clerk's office of the Superior Court of Whatcom County said. Campbell's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Campbell was arrested during a period of heightened tension on U.S. college campuses over allegations of racism and threats against black students.

The Bellingham Herald newspaper reported, citing court documents, that Campbell was accused under the state's hate crime statute after posting the comment in response to claims, also on Yik Yak, that the school's African-American student body president had called white students "baby KKK" on Facebook.

Student body president Belina Seare has said she was the focus of racist and sexist messages on Yik Yak.

Campbell, who is white, was arrested on Nov. 30 and suspended from the university pending the outcome of the case and an investigation by the school. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Demonstrations against racism on U.S. school campuses have gained momentum since student rallies led to the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri last month.

(Writing and additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Toni Reinhold)