CONCORD, N.H. – The lawyer for a New Hampshire man charged with penning racist graffiti on the homes of African refugee families has entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Raymond Stevens, 42, of Pembroke was scheduled to be arraigned on a felony criminal mischief charge in Merrimack Superior Court on Wednesday, but the plea eliminates the need for that hearing.

Stevens was arrested Oct. 15 and charged with writing hateful messages in black permanent marker on the homes of four refugee families in the same Concord neighborhood in 2011 and 2012. He is free on $8,000 bond.

If convicted, Stevens faces 10 to 30 years in prison because police say the crime was motivated by hostility toward the victims’ race and national origin.

Stevens is fighting a bid by prosecutors to seize his pistol permit. No hearings have been scheduled.

It was his application for that pistol permit that helped solve the two-year-old case, Concord police say.

Concord Detective Wade Brown looked through more than 1,000 criminal files and complaints generated from the city’s South End between 2009 and 2011 looking for any handwritten documents featuring the distinctive lowercase letter “b” written like the number six, along with other distinctive letters and unusual word choices used in the graffiti.

When that search failed, Brown turned to gun permit applications and found one submitted by Stevens, who used to live in the same neighborhood where the graffiti appeared.

“Three telltale “b’s” appeared to be an exact match to the racist messages,” Brown wrote in his arrest warrant application.

Searches of Stevens’ home, car and the tattoo parlor he owns in Nashua turned up more handwriting samples that were sent to the FBI for analysis. Police also found racist cartoons and writings on his Facebook pages that “were clearly indicative of a white supremacist ideology,” according to the affidavit.

When questioned by police about the racist graffiti, Stevens told them it was “too extreme” for him and denied any involvement.