[Hpn] hate crime update -- Paterson, NJ

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Thu, 15 Nov 2001 12:51:12 -0800


Bergen County Record
Paterson teens lose bid for anonymity

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Staff Writer

A group of Paterson youths charged with the fatal beating of a homeless man
must wait to launch a constitutional challenge of a recent law that makes it
easier to try them as adults, an appellate judge ruled Wednesday.

Last week, a state judge ruled that six teenagers in the group would stand
trial as adults -- a ruling that would have revealed their names and started
the ball rolling in adult court.

But defense lawyers filed an emergency appeal, arguing that their clients'
anonymity should be preserved until a higher court hears the challenge.
Appellate Division Judge James J. Petrella ordered the names released and
said a constitutional challenge would have to wait until after any

"I'm disappointed," said Joseph Sullivan, who represents the juvenile widely
said to be the ringleader. "It was a long shot, but we're just going to have
to move forward."

In all, 13 youths are charged with the June 20 killing of Hector Robles, who
was kicked and beaten in what has been described as a "wilding rampage" on
the last day of school. Four other people also were attacked.

One defendant, Freddy Rivera, 17, was waived to adult court last month.
Another, Francisco Rodriguez, 17, decided last week not to join the motion
for secrecy in an effort to expedite his chances to be released on bail.

The teenagers, all students at John F. Kennedy High School, are:

Anthony Wheeler, 17, the alleged ringleader. According to statements that
have been read in court, he admitted to police that he was the first to hit
Robles, saying he "snuck" him from behind.

Wheeler, also called "Ant Live," for his aspiring rap career, liked to play
the drums in the school band, friends have said. A co-defendant told police
Wheeler started the rampage, saying he wanted to play "tag" -- street
vernacular for hitting people at random.

Steve Williams Jr., 17. Williams was named by almost every co-defendant as
the first one to strike James DeBel, 39, who was attacked as he delivered
baked goods to a bodega. He is additionally charged with assaulting a
student inside the school.

Henry Robinson Jr., 16, was said to be one of the boys who went through
Robles' pockets during the assault.

Sean Ferrar, 17, admitted he went through Robles' pockets after the attack
but said that nothing was taken. He was also charged with assaulting the

Jawon White, 17, admitted to police that he threw a bottle at Robles, but he
said it missed.

Shohmahree Brown Parris, 17, is also charged with assaulting the
deliveryman. His lawyer said he was a good student with no previous arrest

All the youths identified Wednesday are also charged with assaulting a
teenager who was standing outside the school in the moments before the

Five of 13 juveniles charged have an additional chance to keep their cases
in juvenile court because they were 15 at the time of the killing. In adult
court the maximum term for murder is life in prison with at least 30 years
before parole eligibility. For a juvenile the top term is 20 years.

The younger defendants can get juvenile trials if they prove they can be
rehabilitated by the time they are 19, and their rehabilitation outweighs
the state's reasons for waiver. A rehabilitation hearing is set for one boy
later this month.

Dennis Cummins, the lawyer for Sullivan and Ferrar, said that because there
is a different standard for older and younger juvenile defendants, the law
violates the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal
protection under the law.

Before the law was changed in March 2000, all juveniles could present
evidence of their potential for rehabilitation.

On Friday, the state plans to ask that Wheeler and Williams be moved from
youth detention centers to the Passaic County Jail. The rest of the
defendants are being held in detention centers, except Rivera, who posted
$250,000 bail.

Michael O'Shea, Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor, has said the
state is seeking the change because the two are accused of the most

Bail for the rest of the juveniles is expected to be set by the end of the
week. Arraignments probably will be held by the end of the month.


Staff Writer Jennifer V. Hughes' e-mail address is hughesj@northjersey.com

Copyright  2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
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