Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2007
Two black youths accused in the Long Beach hate-crime case in which three young white women were attacked on Halloween agreed to a plea deal Thursday under which they will serve three months in custody.
The settlement, which also requires that they pay restitution and complete a sensitivity course at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, brings an end to the most controversial and racially tinged legal case in Long Beach in recent memory.
The defendants, both 15-year-old Jordan High School students, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury and a special allegation of causing great bodily injury.
A second special allegation of committing a hate crime, which was vehemently denied by the youths’ parents, was dropped Thursday during a pretrial hearing before Judge Irma J. Brown in Inglewood.
One teen will begin his sentence in June, after the school year ends. The other faces more legal proceedings because he was charged in late April in a separate case with one count of second-degree robbery and one count of grand theft.
The youth has denied the new charges, which accuse him and several other youths of stealing an expensive cellphone from a young woman as she stepped off a Long Beach municipal bus in April, authorities said.
Still to be determined, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas, was how to cover the cost of the nine-week Simon Wiesenthal course, called Opportunities to Promote Tolerance and Increase Option for Non-Violence and Safety, an after-school intervention program for youths referred by high schools or the juvenile justice system.
In this case, said the center’s director, Liebe Geft, the program would be customized to address “a rather unusual circumstance involving a small group of students of different ages being sent here after a high-profile incident.”
If the defendants’ parents participate, Geft said, the cost could run about $23,000. “We are still in discussions with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, the attorneys and the families,” Geft said.