Victims Speak In Long Beach Hate-Crime Case

Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 1, 2007

Three white women beaten by a black mob in Long Beach told a court they were physically and emotionally devastated and asked the judge to give “the harshest punishment possible” to nine minors convicted last week for the Halloween attack.

The trio—Loren Hyman, 21, and Laura Schneider and Michelle Smith, both 19—sobbed through much of their statements, saying they did nothing to provoke the beating and have been scared to leave their homes ever since.

“I hope they’re still in jail when our injuries are finally healed,” Schneider said.

Hyman, who sustained multiple fractures in her nose and around her eye, is scheduled to have 4 1/2 -hour facial reconstruction surgery Friday. “Perhaps the only thing worse than suffering 13 facial fractures was seeing my friend Laura lying on the ground lifeless,” she said.

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Defense attorneys said Wednesday they had been told that prosecutors would not seek time in the California Youth Authority for the juveniles, which would have been the maximum penalty possible. None of the minors have criminal records, though one has been accused of battery in an unrelated case.

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According to testimony in the seven-week trial, as many as 30 black youths took part in the assault on a street in the well-to-do Bixby Knolls area, which has long attracted crowds with its elaborate Halloween displays.

Witnesses said someone in the mob yelled a racial slur and one black youth smashed a woman in the face with a skateboard. Two other black youths are scheduled to go on trial later in connection with the beatings.

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But several defense attorneys have expressed frustration that none of the minors on trial admitted any involvement in the melee.

Defendants who had been in the scrum could have pointed out who was not involved, the lawyers said. Instead, by closing ranks, they perpetuated the sense that the 10 were on trial as a group, not individuals.

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Another defense attorney, Frank Williams Jr., called the victim statements “heart-wrenching.”

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Hyman, who was the only victim to testify during the trial, told the court Wednesday that it was particularly shocking to be the target of a racial attack.

She said she is Latina and Jewish and joined a diversity council in high school after skinheads published an anti-Semitic item in the student newspaper. Her high school sweetheart, she said, was Nigerian.

“I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard them yell ‘I hate … white people!’” she said.

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Schneider said she has recurring nightmares and now sleeps with her mother. And she said she was dismayed by people who tried to characterize the violence as a fight.

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The victims said they were sure that all the minors on trial were involved in the attack.

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