9 Youths Convicted in Racially Charged Halloween Beatings in California

Nine black youths were convicted Friday in juvenile court of beating three white women in a racially charged attack on Halloween night.

The youths, ranging from 12 to 18 years old, could receive sentences from probation to confinement in juvenile prison until age 25. All were charged with felony assault. The judge found eight of them guilty of hate crimes.

The attack occurred in an upscale area of the city known for its elaborate Halloween decorations.

Prosecutors said the confrontation began when a crowd of black youths threw objects at the three young white women. Some hurled racial insults and one was heard shouting "I hate whites," authorities said.

The group then attacked the victims, knocking them to the ground. The beating stopped when a black man driving by pulled the assailants away and shielded the women with his body, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys tried to discredit a key prosecution witnesses, saying it was too dark and she was too far away to see the assailants. They also deemed a police identification procedure "tainted" because the victims and witnesses were not asked to describe the attackers until they were shown the 10 suspects.

About 100 people gathered outside the courthouse to learn the verdicts.

"Today's not a happy day," said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brian Schirn. "The victims still have to undergo physical treatment, emotional treatment."

Mark Crouch, 43, whose 14-year-old daughter was convicted, said he disagreed with the hate-crime finding. "It's not right to say she doesn't like white people," he said. "All we can do now is move on."

A representative of the beaten women, Douglas Otto, said they felt vindicated by the verdict and hope the defendants will "admit their wrongdoing and let the healing begin."

Long Beach, 22 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, is a major cargo port with a racially diverse population of 475,000 people.

The judge scheduled a Jan. 31 hearing to decide on punishments.