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      Students apologize for cotton ball incident

      Two University of Missouri students have apologized for scattering cotton balls outside the MU Black Culture Center on the Mizzou campus.

      Police arrested freshman Sean Fitzgerald, 19, and senior Zachary Tucker, 21, earlier this week on suspicion of hate crimes.

      In a letter to campus leaders and student groups, Fitzgerald and Tucker apologized for their inexcusable judgment.

      Their written apology describes what they called "a series of foolish acts" that included riding the Missouri Tiger Statue in the Carnahan Quad and hoisting a pirate flag at Mizzou TMs ROTC building. Both students are midshipmen in Mizzou TMs Naval ROTC program and have been temporarily suspended from school. Tucker TMs attorney says the apology is not an admission of guilt.

      I think that this is an admission that they were involved in what happened at the Black Cultural Center," Tucker TMs attorney Christopher Slusher said. "Guilt implies that there were criminal violations and violations of a statue. We are certainly not prepared to concede that.

      Boone County prosecutors are waiting on more information from police investigators before they file any charges against Fitzgerald and Tucker. Investigators know that alcohol was involved.

      That TMs an unfortunate thing," Fitzgerald TMs attorney Kevin O TMBrien said. "Obviously, the potential troubles with abuse of alcohol are known. This is just another incident.

      Fitzgerald and his parents gave a face to face apology to the MU Black Culture Center Director Nathan Stephens. MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said he accepts the apology, but the two students must still be responsible for their actions. Deaton is waiting for a report from the MU Student Conduct Committee before any punishments are given.

      We TMre trying to work together for a common cause," Deaton said. "We are not going to allow one ugly incident to harm that progress, even though it may be a hurtful kind of incident that occurs like this one.

      According to their apology, Fitzgerald and Tucker said their behavior that night was totally out of character. They hope they get the opportunity to prove that to the community and everyone they offended.

      Authorities released Fitzgerald and Tucker from the Boone County jail after they each posted a $4,500 bond.

      Their first court appearance is scheduled for March 29.

      If they charged with a hate crime, they both could possibly face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.