LONG BEACH – Angering one victim's family, a judge yesterday sentenced four black youths to probation with 60 days of home detention in the racially motivated Halloween beatings of three white women.
The sentences by Juvenile Court Judge Gibson Lee touched off another series of bitter words in a case that seems to spark outrage at every step. For the past few months, it has tested the harmony of this coastal city of 475,000, which touts its diversity.
“The juvenile system is a joke,” said Barbara Schneider, as her 19-year-old daughter, Laura, sobbed on her shoulder.
Her comments outside court came after Lee passed sentence on the only male defendant of the nine youths convicted last week in the attack. The defendant is 18, but was 17 on Halloween. Prosecutors contended that he was the most culpable of all the convicted defendants.
“If these nine were tried in adult court, which some of them should have been, they would have gotten 13 years for what they did,” Barbara Schneider said.
Lee said in court that he appreciated the severity of the attack – one victim, 21-year-old Loren Hyman, suffered multiple fractures of her nose and around her eye – but he reminded those in attendance that it was a juvenile court. He noted that juvenile court judges “must pick the least restrictive disposition that can lead to the rehabilitation of the minor.”
He ordered the defendants – the 18-year-old man, his twin sister, their 16-year-old sister and another 16-year-old girl – to perform 250 hours of community service and to undergo anger-management counseling. They had been in custody since Halloween.
A defense lawyer said the probation could last until the defendants are 21, but could end earlier. Punishment could have ranged up to confinement in a California Youth Authority lockup until age 25.
Twelve youths were charged in the attack on Laura Schneider, 19-year-old Michelle Smith and Hyman, who yesterday underwent surgery related to the beating.
Last week, Lee convicted nine defendants, ages 13 to 18, on assault charges and found a hate-crime allegation true against eight. He also acquitted a 12-year-old defendant. Two boys are awaiting a separate trial stemming from the attack. The five remaining convicted defendants will be sentenced next week.
The charges stem from an incident on a street in Long Beach's well-to-do Bixby Knolls neighborhood, known for its elaborate Halloween displays.
The three women said they were out in the neighborhood when a group of about 40 black teenagers began taunting them and throwing lemons and small pumpkins at them.
Prosecutors alleged that someone yelled, “I hate (expletive) white people!” Members of the group then began to beat the women. Schneider suffered a concussion.
This is just absolute bullshit. Frankly, I think charging these wankers in juvenile court was a stupidass idea to begin with, but th sentencing here makes a mockery of justice. I simply cannot believe that a roving gang of teenagers who attack people on the street because of their race can simply walk away from it with probation. Looking at the sentencing results, you'd think that this had simply been some sort of slapfight instead of a brutal attack that left tremendous injuries.
It's hard not to come to the conclusion that if the racial makeup of this case were reversed, we'd be treating it differently. Racially motivated white on black crimes = media gold. Racially motivated black on white = zilch. It's ridiculous because frankly, I don't give a rat's ass what the race of the perpetrators are. I think they should have hanged for it whether they be black, white, yellow or green. I'd probaly feel different if this had simply been a fistfight of some sort where maybe there was a bloody nose or black eye, but from the injuries involved, this was nothing short of near murderous assault. It's only by happenstance that someone wasn't killed. If the law is not supposed to protect society from that, then I don't know what it's there for.