SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Three former San Jose State University students accused of harassing a black student at the school were found guilty Monday of misdemeanor battery charges but escaped conviction on hate crime allegations.
Logan Beaschler, 20, of Bakersfield, Joseph “Brett” Bomgardner, 21, of Clovis, and Colin Wyatt Warren, 20, of Woodacre, were freshmen at SJSU when they harassed Donald “DJ” Williams Jr. at an eight-person dormitory suite between August and October 2013.
The three defendants were all white and Williams is African-American.
The defendants allegedly barricaded Williams in a bathroom and a room, locked him in a closet, hung a Confederate flag, forced a bike lock around his neck twice, and also called him derogatory nicknames such as “three-fifths” and “fraction.”
The 2013 incident led to massive protests at San Jose State.
All three were unanimously convicted Monday of misdemeanor battery by a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury composed of six men and six women.
However, Bomgardner was found not guilty of misdemeanor commission of a hate crime by use of force and Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett declared a mistrial on similar hate crime allegations against Beaschler and Warren after the jury deadlocked on those charges.
Warren was the only defendant who appeared with his attorney Dek Ketchum at the Old Courthouse in downtown San Jose, where he stood expressionless as he heard the verdict.
The defendants face up to six months in county jail on the battery conviction, Rosen said.
Jurors later said the incidents happened at different times and they could not connect them to determine intent.
“The jury had a lot of issues about this being a hate crime, which is really what this case was about,” said Defense Attorney Dek Ketchum.
The decision disappointed the victim and prosecutors.
“Hate crimes are challenging to prove,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. “You have to prove what was in someone’s mind when they were committing certain acts. There’s always difficulties. But I think these crimes were motivated in whole and part by bigotry.”
There was an “atmosphere of fear and intimidation” in the dorm that not only diminished Williams’ dignity, but the dignity of all African-American students and the community, Rosen said.
“While today’s decision was partially disappointing it was not dispiriting. Our resolve to fight hate crimes remains unwavering,” Rosen said outside court Monday afternoon beside Williams and his father.
Williams and his father shook hands with Rosen and hugged the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Malinsky.
Rosen thanked Williams for his “heroism” and “courage in confronting this terrible situation.”
Rosen hoped the defendants would draw on Williams’ example and resolve to make changes to lead a different life.
Bomgardner, Beaschler and Warren are scheduled for sentencing on March 14.
Prosecutors will decide by the sentencing hearing if Beaschler and Warren will face another trial on the hate crime allegation, Rosen said.
A fourth student was charged as a juvenile in the case and details couldn’t be discussed because the documents were sealed, Rosen said.
Bomgardner’s attorney Sam Polverino declined to comment on the battery charge due to a pending $5 million lawsuit brought against his client, the other two defendants and SJSU.
“Justice was served” in respect to the hate crime charge, Polverino said.
Ketchum said he believes his client was “disappointed” by the battery conviction.
“The jury had a lot of issues with regard to whether this was a hate crime,” Ketchum said in regards to the hung jury on the second count.
One juror who declined to give his name said the jury was unanimous in their vote to convict the defendants on the battery charge.
The juror, who described himself as a software engineer from Campbell in his 40s, said he believed Williams was forced into a bike lock on two occasions.
The juror said he had concluded that Beaschler and Warren were guilty of committing a hate crime, which he said was difficult to prove because prosecutors had to show what was going on in the defendants’ minds.
The jury had voted against the hate crime charge by a 7 to 5 vote for Beaschler and 9 to 3 vote for Warren, according to the juror.
“Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community,” SJSU interim president Sue Martin said in a letter to the campus community.
University officials are planning on discussing the results of a recent campus climate survey and are interviewing semifinalists for chief diversity officer this weekend, Martin said.
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