Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Long Beach teens face hate crime charges

By Hector Becerra and Rong-Gong Lin II, Times Staff Writers
2:41 PM PST, November 22, 2006

Los Angeles County prosecutors today filed hate crimes charges against eight black teenagers accused of beating up three white women on Halloween night in a case that has startled and divided Long Beach.

Authorities said they took the action after concluding that the teens attacked and beat the women in the upscale Bixby Knolls area because they were white.

The case has been the subject of a wrenching public dialogue over the last few weeks in the racially diverse city of 460,000, with civil rights groups like the NAACP condemning the teenagers' alleged actions and the city holding a public forum meant to ease tensions. The attack occurred on a block known for fancy Halloween decorations.

According to police, a mob of mostly girls, ages 12 to 17, allegedly hurled racial insults at the women, threw small pumpkins and lemons at them, and then knocked them to the ground with kicks, punches and swings of a skateboard.

The attack left the women, two 19-year-olds and a 21-year-old bloodied and with broken bones, internal bruises and cuts, before a black passerby stopped his car and pulled their assailants away.

"What could have possibly gone through their mind to make them think this kind of behavior was OK?" asked Long Beach Police Officer Jackie Bezart. The girls, who face felony assault charges, appeared in court today.

Their attorneys said the girls are good students and have no history of violence or criminal behavior. One of the girls won a full athletic scholarship to USC and had represented the United States in a track meet in China, her attorney told the court. He urged the judge to allow the girl out of Juvenile Hall so she could take the SATs.

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