SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The lawyer for one of four San Jose State University students charged with hate crimes against a black student said Monday that his client’s actions were “stupid” but not motivated by race.
Chuck Mesirow said that he was not disputing what his client Logan Beaschler and the others did to the black student last fall at SJSU, which he attributed to them being “immature” and “nerdy college students.”
“These stupid actions were never motivated by racial prejudice,” Mesirow said.
“I just would hate for my client to be branded for the rest of his life as a racist,” Mesirow said.
Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield, and Joseph Bomgardner, of Clovis, 19, Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre, and a male juvenile who is not being identified because of his age were suspended by SJSU last November and prosecutors have filed criminal charges against them.
They have each been charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office with the two misdemeanors for incidents that occurred in a student residence hall on the campus between mid-August and mid-October last year.
Prosecutors allege that the freshman students wrote a racial slur on a board, called the then-17-year-old victim “three-fifths” and “fraction,” put up a Confederate flag and pictures of Adolf Hitler and Nazi symbols in their eight-person housing suite and barricaded him in a room.
The assault charges were filed based on the black student’s allegation that his roommates injured him when they locked a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck, prosecutors said.
Beaschler appeared for his arraignment hearing Monday in Superior Court in San Jose and pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor hate crime, Deputy District Attorney Erin West said.
Mesirow asked Judge Ronald Lisk that his client be released on his own recognizance instead of being held on $15,000 bail, but Lisk denied the request, West said.
Beaschler’s parents and his sister accompanied the defendant to the hearing Monday morning, according to Mesirow.
Warren’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22 but there is no date yet for Bomgardner’s, West said.
Beaschler was an “honor” engineering student at SJSU and is faced with being expelled from the California State University system, which could affect his ability to return to college elsewhere, Mesirow said.
There is “more to the story” about Beaschler, who is a “shy and introverted” person, and Beaschler and his family “are contrite and apologetic” about what happened, Mesirow said.
Beaschler “grew up in an age where they do not know how someone from a different minority will react.”
Mesirow said that the acts described by SJSU campus police against the black student did happen and were “inexcusable” but were not based on racial hatred.
In the case where the white students placed a bicycle lock around the student’s neck it was “’Let’s hold him down and put the chain on him’ and they all laughed at it,” Mesirow said.
The acts were “immature, but I don’t think that my client knew how this impacted” the black student, Mesirow said.
The case is complex because of the laws regarding hate crimes, he said.
“Hate crimes are judged by whether these acts were motivated by racism,” Mesirow said. “It’s not what happened, it’s the motivation.”
All four white students remain on suspension pending informal conferences with SJSU administrators who will issue sanctions that could include expulsion, Harris said.
The students would then have 10 days to ask for hearings on the sanctions, according to Harris.
In December, SJSU president Mohammad Qayoumi appointed retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell to lead a task force to review the facts of the case and recommend how to create a more welcoming environment on campus, SJSU spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said.
The members of the committee have not been chosen yet but the panel is expected to hold its first meeting in early February, Harris said.
SJSU has hired Mike Moye, a San Francisco attorney, to prepare a report on the incidents that is be completed by the end of this month and submitted to the committee to help them reach recommendations, Harris said.
Mesirow, a former prosecutor who said he has known Cordell and respects her, said that he is “hopeful that (the committee) does not become a witch hunt of what my client has done.”
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