Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Black teens found guilty of Halloween hate crimes in LA


A juvenile court judge found nine black teenagers guilty on Friday of beating three young white women with pumpkins, newspapers and a skateboard last Halloween in an attack that has shined a spotlight on racial tensions here.

In a packed courtroom, Judge Gibson Lee announced felony assault convictions against eight girls and one boy, ranging in age from 14 to 18, and the acquittal of one 12-year-old girl. Eight of the teenagers were also convicted of hate crimes.

The defendants' parents said their children were denied their rights, noting they have been in custody since their arrest on Oct. 31. In California, there is no bail for juveniles.

Cherralle Hardison, the mother of the 12-year-old and three of the convicted teenagers, wept.

"My heart is very heavy. It hurts to know your kids didn't do anything, and you can't do anything to help them," Hardison, 46, said.

Outside the courthouse, helicopters and a dozen satellite news vans along with hundreds of the defendants' supporters awaited the verdicts in what has become known as "the Halloween incident." Police officers, some in riot gear, guarded the building and the fifth floor of the courthouse.

When news of the verdicts made its way outside, the mostly black crowd reacted with anger, some saying the convictions amounted to "mob justice" and "a lynching."

Lee will hear victim impact statements on Wednesday before sentencing the youths. They face a minimum of at-home probation, to several years in a California Youth Authority facility, up to age 25.

The Halloween attack happened in the Bixby Knolls section, a well-to-do neighborhood where children say they like to go trick-or-treating because residents give "whole candy bars."

The young women said a group of boys sexually taunted them as they entered a haunted house organized by area homeowners. They tried to ignore them, they said, but on their way out, they encountered the boys again. Within a few minutes, the women said, they were beaten, scratched, kicked and pummeled with newspapers, lemons and miniature pumpkins as someone yelled, "I hate white people," adding an expletive.

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