The following story, commencing this past October of 2006 in the city of Long Beach, California (about 30 miles south of where I live in Los Angeles), with a brutal, racially motivated beating and culminating with the severe travesty of justice that is the sentencing doled out to the perpetrators, is nothing short of shocking for a hate crime of this severity.
Last October 31, three black young women were viciously assaulted by nine trick-or-treating white teenage boys and girls. Prior to the ferocious onslaught, the nine assailants ridiculed the three black teenaged victims by hurling racial epithets, pumpkins, and various fruits at their prey. One white teen even was heard to yell, “I hate blacks!” After the aggressors could find no other vegetables to chuck at the targets, they then proceeded to beat the three black girls into another state of mind. The antagonists used their fists, their feet, and their skateboards during the attack, all while continuing their barrage of racist slurs and aspersions at their black female victims. One girl, with dozens of broken facial bones, nearly lost an eye in the attack. Now she must remain in an upright position for three months, not even allowed to recline in order to sleep at night.
While the trial ended in guilty verdicts for all nine villains, the sentences handed out by Judge Gibson Lee stupefied the victims, their families, the community and the cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles–simple probation. The first conviction constituted a gross injustice as the young boy was handed a laughable sentence of 60 days, house arrest. For the remaining eight pugilists, much of the same–probationary house arrest. To call this an outrage is to put too light a word to it. This is an atrocity.
In the politically correct age in which we live, one might be stunned into wondered astonishment as to how such a travesty as this could come to pass–three young black women nearly beat to death by nine savage white teens.
How? Well, it did and it didn’t. Read the above story again, only this time, replace nine white teens with nine black teens, and three black girls with three white girls. Do you have more clarity now? Do you know why the judge gave such lenient sentences to the offenders? If you do, explain it to me because I still do not understand.
Halloween beating victims, left to right, Lura Schneider, Michelle Smith and Loren Hyman speak to media outside a Long Beach, Calif., courthouse Wednesday Jan. 31, 2007. The three young women were in court Wednesday to give ‘victim impact statements’ to the judge who last week convicted their attackers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) ,
Victim’s attorney disagrees with sentence
They faced sentences ranging from probation to time in the California Youth Authority, although most involved in juvenile law agree the disposition will be geared more toward rehabilitation than punishment.
Doug Otto, attorney for the three victims, said he disagreed with Judge Gibson Lee’s verdict.
“The judge said he felt bound by case law and statutes to impose the least restrictive sentence,” Otto said after coming out of the courthouse. Otto said Laura, the woman who said she was knocked unconscious by the boy, was particularly upset by the sentencing.
“We disagree strongly, but we respect the law,” Otto said. “This doesn’t feel like justice.”
All nine defendants, eight girls and one boy ages 13 to 18, were convicted of felony assault last week. A girl, 12, was acquitted.
Lee had scheduled the nine convicted teens’ sentencing, or disposition as it is called in juvenile court, over three days, with four Friday, another four on Tuesday and the final youth on Wednesday.
A hate-crime allegation was found to be true in eight of the cases, and an allegation that gross bodily injury was personally inflicted by the accused was found to be true for six of the convicted teens.
In the attack, a group of 20 to 40 black youngsters surrounded and beat the women to the ground as trick-or-treaters gathered in a Bixby Knolls neighborhood.
The hate-crime allegations stemmed from witness reports that several in the group yelled racial slurs during the assault, which occurred at about 9 p.m. Halloween in the 3800 block of Linden Avenue.
The youngest minor, a 12-year-old girl, was acquitted of the charge.
The Press-Telegram has chosen not to identify by name the victims, accused minors or witnesses in the case out of concern for their safety.
Cherrale, the mother of three teens convicted in the Bixby Knolls beating, smiles as she leaves the Long Beach Courthouse on Friday. The Press-Telegram has withheld the names of the convicted teens and their family members because the case has been heard in juvenile court. (Jeff Gritchen / Press-Telegram)
Youths’ sentences similar to those handed down to others last week.
LONG BEACH – Four black female minors were sentenced to house arrest, probation and community service on Monday in the beatings of three white women on Halloween.One female defendant, a Cal State Long Beach student and the last of 10 tried in the case, will be sentenced today. Four others received similar sentences Jan. 26, while one, a 12-year-old girl, was acquitted.
A representative of several of the defendants’ families said they will comment after the final sentence is handed down by Long Beach Superior Court Judge Gibson Lee.
District Attorney Andrea Bouas argued for stronger penalties in three of the four sentences on Monday.
The four were convicted Jan. 26 of felony assault on the three victims. A hate-crime enhancement was found true on all four sentenced Monday.
However, Lee handed out the same sentences he had on Friday to four other teens: probation, 60 days of house arrest, 250 hours of community service and classes on anger management and racial tolerance.
Before Lee handed down his sentences to a 13-year-old, two 14-year-olds and a 17-year-old, Bouas recommended that three of the defendants be sentenced to time in California Youth Authority camps.
Bouas said about two defendants, a 17-year-old and her younger sister, that the older had a history of “acting out” and the other may have gang affiliations and a propensity for violence.
Bouas said the 17-year-old, an internationally ranked track athlete, had “a gift” athletically but apparently didn’t appreciate it.
“Why would she risk her gift?” Bouas asked. “Maybe she didn’t value what she has. Sometimes when you have success you don’t recognize the value. Maybe this is the best thing that could have happened to her.”
Bouas also noted the older sister had been struggling academically with a 1.92 grade point average, not including athletics.
“The last chance for her is camp, to get her on track,” Bouas said. “She needs intervention.”
The deputy district attorney also asked the 17-year-old be barred from receiving a driver’s license until she is 21, noting a history of citations for driving without a license, including on the night of the assault.
Bouas said the younger sister showed a “frightening propensity for violence.” Bouas said even when a Good Samaritan intervened, it was the younger sister who continued to kick and seemed prepared to attack the physically imposing Good Samaritan.
Bouas also talked about a MySpace Web page that showed the girl and her 7-year-old brother flashing what she said were gang signs.
Attorney Marc Rothenberg quickly contested the assertion that the hand signals were gang-related, insisting it was merely a “thumbs up.”
“I hope I don’t get shot for giving someone a thumbs up,” Rothenberg said, eliciting laughter from the court audience.
Bouas said the younger sister “has a gift but flirts with danger” and worried the younger brother would be “contaminated” by his older sibling.
Lee, addressing gang affiliations, warned the teens: “A word to the wise. Gang activity while on probation is a straight ticket to CYA.”
Much of the information Bouas related was disallowed from the court case, but was permissible during sentencing.
Lee ruled that the court lacked power to impose the license restriction but said that the Department of Motor Vehicles would be advised.
Like the four teens sentenced Friday – an 18-year-old male, his twin sister, 16-year-old younger sister and his 16-year-old girlfriend – the defendants Monday were ordered to pay restitution.
The Press-Telegram does not identify the victims and their families out of concern for their safety and has withheld the names of the convicted teens because the case has been heard in juvenile court.
The nine defendants were convicted Jan. 26 of felony assault on the three victims, who were taunted with racial slurs and pelted with fruit and pumpkins before being beaten to the ground by a mob of youths trick-or-treating on the 3800 block of Linden Avenue.
The 18-year-old twins and their 16-year-old friend sentenced Friday were also found guilty of the special circumstances of hate crime and the personal infliction of gross bodily injury.
While on probation, the teens cannot leave their homes between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. During house arrest, they cannot leave for anything other than school, not even track practice. All four are competitive athletes.
They cannot contact the victims or associate with known gang members and are barred from socializing with their fellow convicted friends – although Lee noted the teens who are related obviously will have contact.
Probation can be until a minor is 21, authorities said, although it rarely lasts that long if the youths abide by the court’s restrictions and stay out of trouble.
After Lee handed down his rulings, parents of the defendants quietly gathered in a hallway outside the courtroom and signed papers to secure the release of their children. One hopeful adult had two paper lunch sacks with the names of two of the girls scribbled on the sides.
While a contingent of media waited for the families of the defendants at the front of the courthouse, the families left via a side door.
Halloween beating victim Laura Schneider reacts while speaking to media outside a Long Beach, Calif., courthouse Wednesday Jan. 31, 2007. Schneider, Michelle Smith and Loren Hyman were in court Wednesday to give ‘victim impact statements’ to the judge who last week convicted their attackers. Behind Schneider are unidentified family members. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)