Melissa Harris and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun, March 19, 2008
A Baltimore juvenile court judge found five Robert Poole Middle School students responsible yesterday in the December attack on a city bus passenger and her boyfriend, concluding a divisive case fraught with racial overtones.
Judge David W. Young’s decision followed nearly two months of court hearings on the Dec. 4 fight in Hampden, described by several 911 callers as a riot. The attack prompted stricter safety standards on city buses and left Sarah Kreager, 26, with two broken bones around her left eye.
Nine black teens were initially accused of “rising up en masse” and attacking Kreager on the No. 27 bus after school had let out for the day.
Defense attorneys argued that Kreager’s left eye was already bruised when she boarded the bus and that when the students began snickering at her, Kreager’s boyfriend, Troy Ennis, ordered her “to spit on them [racial slur].”
But prosecutors said the youths attacked Kreager, who is white, after her boyfriend accused one of them of immaturity for refusing to relinquish an empty seat.
Four of the students were found involved—the juvenile equivalent of guilty—of first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and conspiracy in the attack on Kreager. They also were found involved in reckless endangerment in the attack on Ennis.
A fifth student was found involved for the reckless endangerment of Kreager and for second-degree assault and reckless endangerment against Ennis.
Earlier in the case, a sixth teen had admitted hitting Kreager. Young delayed cases against three others; those cases are likely to be dismissed.
During closing statements, defense attorney Barbara Greene said, “There’s nothing like an ugly racial slur and a little spit to turn things ugly.”
And defense attorney Kimberly Thomas said her client was the victim.
“There’s a victim sitting right here, your honor,” she said, pointing to Nakita McDaniels, 15. “A victim, and she’s charged?”
The five teens will learn their punishment April 3. The names of most of them are not being divulged because The Sun does not report the identities of juvenile offenders. But McDaniels’ name became public after she filed countercharges against Kreager in adult court, which prosecutors did not pursue.
But in the end, it was one of the accused’s own statements to police that captured the hatred the students felt for Kreager, Hankin argued.
Police asked one of the boys, a 15-year-old, how he felt about “the victims being assaulted? One being in the hospital?”
The boy replied, “I don’t feel no . . . I don’t feel nothing.”
[Editor’s Note: Read an earlier story about this incident here.]