Brianna Brochu, the former University of Hartford student accused of harassing her roommate by smearing bodily fluid on the roommate’s backpack and tampering with other items, received a special form of probation Monday that could allow her to avoid a criminal record.
Her former roommate, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe, attended Brochu’s hearing in Superior Court in Hartford and told Judge Omar Williams that she did not oppose Brochu’s request for accelerated rehabilitation. Brochu will have to perform 200 hours of community service — including 50 at a literacy organization in Greater Hartford and 50 at a social services group. If she completes those requirements and stays out of trouble, the charges of breach of peace and criminal mischief will be dismissed after two years.
Brochu, of Harwinton, must also have no contact with Rowe and submit to a mental health evaluation.
Rowe said she was traumatized by Brochu’s actions, which she called “acts of hate.” She said they resulted in nightmares, an inability to trust others and other difficulties that have caused her to delay her educational goals. “By giving her this second chance, I hope she will change her ways and finds love for all mankind no matter what race,” Rowe said.
Brochu’s lawyer, Thomas Stevens, apologized on her behalf and said Brochu had wanted to apologize and express her regret sooner but that he directed her not to out of concern over possible civil litigation. He said Brochu has lost her scholarship to attend the University of Hartford and a job she held at the time. Since then, she found another job and has been working to raise the money to pay his fee.
Stevens said Brochu is angry with herself for letting communication with Rowe break down and for reacting in anger to a perceived slight.
“With the consequences she has endured … death threats … she knows she made a mistake,” Stevens said.
The state did not take a position on the request for accelerated rehabilitation. Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy defended her office from criticism for not filing hate crime charges. Brochu is white and Rowe is black. Hardy said she reviewed police reports, witness statements, viewed officers’ body cam video of the interviews with each witness and had police take a deep dive into Brochu’s social media history in search of any racist materials. Investigators found none, she said.
“We don’t bring charges for personal purposes, we don’t bring charges for political purposes … vindictiveness, or to respond to demands from the public,” Hardy said.
Brochu, who was expelled from the university, was charged by West Hartford police with breach of peace and criminal mischief. She previously pleaded not guilty.
Brochu told police that she did not have a good relationship with Rowe. She claimed Rowe was rude to her and posted videos online of her snoring to make fun of her.
The NAACP and others have publicly supported Rowe and had urged Hartford prosecutors to file a hate crime charge against Brochu.
Brochu told police she lashed out at Rowe and said she licked her plate, fork and spoon, put blood from a used tampon on her backpack, and mixed her lotions with other lotions from Rowe’s desk.
Rowe told police that Brochu “generally ignored her and treated her as a ghost,” according to the warrant for Brochu’s arrest. She had asked for a room change and was moving her belongings out of the room when Brochu’s Instagram post describing her alleged conduct surfaced.
Both women had asked the University of Hartford to give them different roommates.
Although Williams found that Brochu was deserving of the second chance offered by accelerated rehabilitation, he expressed astonishment at the pettiness of the disagreements that started the feud, such as the dorm room temperature. He said a day seated in a courtroom would help Brochu get a sense of the problems and challenges people are forced to overcome each day. And many would have gratefully leaped at the opportunity she had to attend college on a scholarship, the judge said.
And the price Brochu pays for her conduct will last long after her court case ends, Williams said. Friends, potential employers and even potential romantic partners will learn of Brochu’s conduct with a simple internet search, the judge said. Even her own children might one day learn about their mother’s misconduct.
“The internet has a long memory and you will have to do a lot of good to live down these allegations,” he said. The judge urged Brochu to embrace diversity and the opportunity it gives one to grow, to not waste her opportunity at a second chance and to move forward. “You can let this case define you or bury it beneath your accomplishments,” he said.
Outside court, state NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile repeated his view that Brochu should have been charged with a hate crime. “There’s a system for white people and there’s a system for black people,” he said. “That’s what we face every day.”