An 18-year-old college freshman is now facing a hate crime charge for harassing and intimidating her former roommate, prosecutors say.
Brianna Brochu, of Harwinton, Connecticut, admitted to authorities that she repeatedly licked many of former roommate Chenell “Jazzy” Rowe’s personal items and smeared tampon blood on her backpack, court documents obtained by Heavy said.
Brochu is white and Rowe is black and the case gained national attention October 31 after a video was published online by Rowe, documenting her allegations of mistreatment by Brochu. The video came after Brochu wrote in several now-deleted Instagram posts how she unknowingly harassed Rowe. Her put pressure on authorities to file harsher charges against Brochu and led to her leaving the University of Hartford.
Brochu has since been charged with breach of peace of the second degree and criminal mischief of the third degree, both misdemeanors. She faced Judge Tammy Geathers on November 1 in community court, but case was moved to Hartford Superior Court, where more serious cases are typically heard. She’s currently free on $1,000 bail and is banned from the University of Hartford campus. She was ordered by the court to have no contact with Rowe.
In addition to the misdemeanor charges, West Hartford Police said in a press release they are trying for an additional charge of second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias, a felony that carries a sentence between 1 and 5 years in prison.
According to her Facebook profile, Rowe is a freshman at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and attended high school in Springfield Gardens, New York.
Here’s what you need to know about Rowe:
1. Rowe Broadcast Her Allegations on Facebook Live
In a lengthy Facebook Live video which has now been viewed over 500,000 times since it was posted October 30, documented her experiences living with Brochu. Watch Rowe’s video above.
“This is beyond ridiculous,” Rowe says at the start of the video.
Rowe says that she move to Connecticut and the University of Hartford campus on August 27 and was assigned a random roommate (Brochu). In the months that followed, Rowe said Brochu would be “disrespectful,” citing things like her turning off the light before leaving the room if she was working on something.
“While I’ve been here, I’ve been getting sick. Not knowing why, I’ve been getting sick. It started with throat pain. I thought maybe because it’s colder up here, I’m just probably catching a cold.”
Rowe said in the video that when she gets sick, it usually starts in her throat and other symptoms follow. However, the cold never came and the throat pain increased, with it happening for about one month.
“Three-and-a-half weeks in, it got to the point where I had extreme throat pain and I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t speak,” she said, adding she went to the on-campus health clinic, where three tests were performed and she was prescribed antibiotics.
The tests came back negative, and Rowe said it was still unknown what was wrong with her. After a couple of days, Rowe said she decided to move out of her room, adding that she tried to be respectful to Brochu despite the resentment that was felt.
“She lives in Connecticut and she would go home every weekend,” Rowe said. “I would always feed her fish. I don’t understand why, which is why I think it’s a whole racial/hate issue.”
Two weeks ago, Rowe moved out and was going through the process of finding a new roommate. While she was doing that, she said she was made aware of several Instagram posts on Brochu’s account. Rowe said she didn’t follow her on Instagram and an RA in the dorm notified her of the disturbing posts.
On Brochu’s Instagram, there was a post of Rowe eating with a caption: “If only she knew where her utensils been.”
“It’s the fact that I didn’t know all of this was happening and it’s the fact that she’s been posting it on her Instagram,” Rowe said in her video. “And I didn’t know anything about it until my neighbor’s friend (told me). If only I knew. I just want to know the ‘so much more.’ I want to know all the posts.”
2. Rowe Was Critical of School Staff & Its Way of Handling the Incidents
After discovering the social media posts, Rowe said she went directly to the staff at her residence hall. But her complaints were met with refusal to move forward, she said. School staff reportedly told her that she couldn’t talk about what happened or she’d face being kicked off the residential side of campus. That infuriated Rowe, she said.
“How’s the situation over? The situation just started,” Rowe said in the video. “I can’t get anything done to progress the whole situation, because you have to wait for public safety to finish the investigation in order for this to go up so things can actually start happening.”
Rowe said that she was informed by public safety officers that she “might not hear anything at all” regarding the case, despite her having to travel back home to New York to go to doctor appointments.
“I’m missing classes because I have to go back and forth,” she said in the video. “Meanwhile, nothing is happening, nothing is happening.”
Rowe was critical of staff at the school and their way of handling the incidents in a later social media post.
Colleges are known to just sweep issues that happen within the campus under the rug, making the issue disappear and not doing anything about it. Now this isn’t right at all and this is where the public gets involved to push for things to be done right. I’m not holding my tongue any longer about my situation because this is just ridiculous to hear nothing back from my school about this situation. As a African American woman I have to fight for myself and others to not become some statistic.
University of Hartford President Greg Woodward wrote a letter to the student body November 1, acknowledging the incident and saying that he was “confident the university has taken all steps to pursue this matter seriously, and will continue to do so.”
Read his full letter below:
Dear University of Hartford Community,
I am writing to you this evening to send a strong message regarding an incident that is deeply upsetting to me, our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. One of our students was the alleged victim of bullying and her story was shared across social media. Let me be clear: the accused student’s behavior was reprehensible and does not reflect the values of our institution. Let me also be clear that I am confident the University has taken all steps to pursue this matter seriously, and will continue to do so.
Upon learning of the incident, Public Safety immediately ensured that the victim was relocated to a safe location, notified local authorities, and provided support for their investigation. The accused student was subsequently arrested by the West Hartford Police Department and her case will proceed through the legal process. The University will continue to precisely execute our defined process outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
The University strictly and swiftly followed all procedural and legal processes related to this alleged event; claims to the contrary are based on misinformation. The incident has brought about accusations of racism, and I want you to know that I hear and share your anger and frustration. Acts of racism, bias, bullying, or other abusive behaviors will not be tolerated on this campus. I pledge to do everything in my power to work with our community to address related concerns together.
Throughout the day, I and members of my administration have been meeting with students, including representatives from the Student Government Association, multicultural organizations, and concerned students. I have also met with the affected student and we are in communication with her family. We will continue to offer support and assistance to her, as well as any other student that feels threatened, victimized, or uncomfortable on our campus. Let me repeat; racism and hatred will not be tolerated on this campus. Period. I encourage every one of you reading this email to report incidents on campus that are troubling and worthy of review.
I will proactively schedule and communicate additional community conversations in the coming days. I am willing and prepared to openly discuss concerns and will transparently share any additional information about University resources and processes that will make our community stronger. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our University and I am confident we provide a secure environment for our students in which to learn and thrive. Our community is not exempt from issues facing our society and world. We must strive every day to practice understanding, tolerance, inclusion, and grace. I know that you will join me in this critical mission.
In her Facebook video, Rowe cited her race as likely being a motivating factor, saying that she was curious what would happen if the roles were reversed.
“And the fact I’m black and my old roommate is white, if the roles was switched, I want to know if it would be handled the same way?” Rowe said in the video. “I feel like me as a black person and her being a white person, if I’m the woman who committed all these crimes, this would’ve been completely different. … There were so many crimes committed, that she openly posted. … I would’ve been locked up already, they would have had no hesitation, cuffed me and taken me away. I’m just so aggravated.”
3. Court Documents State the Harassment Started Less Than 2 Weeks After They Moved in Together
According to a criminal complaint, Rowe told authorities that the harassment appeared to start less than two weeks after they moved in with each other. She pointed out a September 8 Instagram post by Brochu, which was a picture of the thermostat set at 76 degrees. The caption on the post said: “Goodmorning from the sweat lodge. Lol when your roommate try’s to cook you on the daily :) room was so hot last night our f***ing windows fogged up. #canadiansweatlodge #sauna #swampass”
Read the full complaint, obtained by Heavy, below:
Another post that Rowe pointed out to authorities was on October 17. It came with a caption saying: “Finally did it yo girl got rid of her roommate1! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.”
That post came on the same day that Rowe said she moved out. She told FOX 61 News that she was in the process of moving into her new room when she bumped into Brochu.
“She asked me if I was moving out and I simply said ‘yup’ and she made a face and said ‘okay’ and then I saw her pick up her phone and automatically start texting,” she told the news outlet.
The October 17 post was accompanied by three photos. The first was of a purse that belonged to Rowe with a reddish-brown substance stain, a plastic food container with a “milky white substance,” and “some type of weave hair piece.”
Brochu told authorities that the stain in the first photo was “period blood.” The substance in the food container was “moldy clam dip” that she mixed with Rowe’s facial lotion, she told authorities, and the third was with a caption: “This b***h legit bought a box of f***ing hair.”
Brochu told authorities that she started to lash out at Rowe because of the “hostile environment” she claims was created by her “rude behavior.”
Brochu accused Rowe of “not compromising and posting SnapChat videos of (her) sleeping and making fun of (her) snoring.” She said that she requested a roommate change October 11, but it was denied.
Court documents indicated that Brochu admitted to police that she did lick Rowe’s personal items, smear tampon blood on her backpack and mix things with her lotions, but denied doing anything else, saying that other posts to social media were an attempt “to appear funny.”
4. Rowe Has a YouTube Channel Where She Reviewed Hair Products
Rowe graduated from Springfield Gardens High School in New York this past spring, about 120 miles south of the University of Hartford.
“Taking my first steps into my new life,” she wrote in a caption of her graduation photos on June 28.
Rowe also has a YouTube channel with 20 subscribers. In the first video posted, she welcomed viewers to her account.
“Join me on my YouTube journey,” the description of the video says. “Young NYC girl with a lot in store for you guys. Whether it’s a hair tutorial, makeup tutorial, pranks, vlogs, etc. I GOT YALL!!!”
“I’m starting my YouTube channel completely over,” she says in the video. “Now, I’m going to be completely serious about everything. Hair tutorials, makeup, whatever you want, I’ll do. JahsBarbie is better than ever. Improved and dedicated to you guys 100 percent. Stay tuned for all of my upcoming videos on my channel.”
Rowe posted two subsequent videos on her channel, which are reviews of hair products. She has another YouTube channel where the last video posted was over three years ago. Many of the videos are her singing cover songs.
5. Rowe Says She’s Been Very Busy Since Documenting Her Experience
Ever since she’s come forward with the allegations against Brochu and police charges have been filed, Rowe said she’s been very busy “sharing (her) story and letting this issue be globally known.” She said she’s heard from “people all over the world” on social media in less than 24 hours.
“It’s time we fight back and stop being silenced!” she wrote in a post.
Many of her friends on social media and strangers from across the world have been sending messages of support to Rowe. The hashtag #JusticeForJazzy has been trending worldwide on Twitter and other social media forms.
“Jazzy words can’t even begin to explain how disgusted and honestly just pist I am over this,” one Instagram user wrote. “ThisBS has got to stop yesterday. As an alum of the university of Hartford ,former member of bsu and casa , and black female me and the rest of my fellow alum got your back! We are going to light this up and make NOISE! This will NOT be passed over! This is beyond! You let us all know what you need aside from our own efforts and we’ve got you! Stay strong ! Keep fighting , you are not alone we’ve ALL got your back! #justiceforjazzy”