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    Lawyer: Noose wasn't racist symbol

    It was tied to show how to catch a gator, insists a utility's lawyer, denying a charge by a black worker who found the knot.

    ©Associated Press
    October 10, 2002


    DESTIN -- A noose found at a work station was used to demonstrate how to catch alligators, not as a racist symbol, a lawyer for a utility accused of discrimination said.

    The noose was cited as evidence of discrimination by two employees, one black and the other white, who filed a criminal complaint with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office. They also complained of hearing co-workers use racial slurs and seeing similar comments written on a bathroom wall.

    Destin Water Users lawyer Larry Keefe said Tuesday that a woman who does temporary work for the utility has given a sworn statement saying that in July she showed another temporary employee, a man, what kind of rope knot to use for snaring a gator.

    She said the man wanted to know about it in case he encountered an alligator while working on an unrelated surveying project.

    After tying the noose she left it in the work station, according to Keefe.

    Darrick Hall, who is black, found the noose last week after returning to his job after a work related injury.

    Daniel Uhlfelder, a lawyer representing Hall and the other complaining employee, Todd Oranje, was skeptical of the woman's story.

    "Some things are not worthy of a response," Uhlfelder said. "We look forward to deposing these so-called gator catchers."

    Keefe said the company responded to earlier complaints from Hall and Oranje with diversity training and by requiring a worker to apologize for using a racial slur.

    No one had complained about the noose before Hall found it, Keefe said.

    If investigators want the noose for evidence they won't find it. Keefe said it was thrown away so it no longer would be visible after Hall complained.

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