SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Two men were convicted last week of beating up two Mexican nationals in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in November, but although prosecutors said the attack was racially motivated, the jury rejected hate crime enhancements to the charges.
Robert Allen, 39, and Justin Meskan, 29, were found guilty in San Francisco Superior Court on Friday of assault and battery charges stemming from the Nov. 9 beating of two Hispanic men outside a bar near the corner of Hyde and O’Farrell streets, prosecutors said.
Allen and Meskan were part of a group accused of yelling “white power” and making racist comments while attacking the men. The group assaulted one victim from behind, knocking him to the ground and punching him and kicking him in the face until he blacked out.
A third man, 33-year-old Anthony Weston, accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to assault charges and the hate crime allegation in exchange for a sentence of probation, having already served nearly a year in jail, district attorney’s office spokesman Omid Talai said.
The plea deal required him to testify against Allen and Meskan during the trial.
After two days of deliberation, the jury declined to find Allen and Meskan guilty of the same allegation despite Weston pleading guilty to the hate crime enhancement.
Allen and Meskan returned to court Thursday morning for a hearing in which a judge found true that both men had prior convictions, which will add to the potential length of their sentences.
Outside of court Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, who prosecuted the case, said that after the verdict was announced he talked to jurors, some of whom said they believed someone had yelled “white power” but weren’t sure who had said it.
Hwang said the jury’s instructions that the crime had to be caused by hate led to their rejection of the enhancement.
He said jurors felt that the fight was not necessarily started for hate crime reasons, but may have become racially motivated due to the length and severity of the attack.
“I don’t believe that to be the case,” Hwang said.
Meskan faces a state prison term of up to 8 and a half years when he is sentenced on Nov. 9, while Allen faces up to 9 and a half years when he is sentenced on Nov. 16.
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