NEW YORK – Closing arguments in the trial of a white man accused of beating a black man with a baseball bat came to an end with lawyers sparring over whether the alleged attack was racially motivated.
Attorney Albert Gaudelli said Thursday his client, 20-year-old Nicholas Minucci, was "a scapegoat because he's a dope," but that the incident was not about race. Prosecutor Michelle Goldstein said, "Race fueled this case in a substantial way, race heated this case up."
Minucci is charged with assault and robbery as a hate crime. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Jurors deliberated for an hour Thursday without reaching a verdict. They were scheduled to reconvene Friday morning.
Authorities say Minucci beat Glenn Moore, 23, on June 29 because of his race and used racial epithets during the encounter.
Trying to defuse prosecution arguments that Minucci's use of the "n-word" indicated the attack was racially motivated, Gaudelli has argued that the word is so commonly used today that it no longer has a predominantly racist connotation.
"You don't like that word, I don't like that word, no one over 30 likes it but it's a fact that people under 30 use the word differently," Gaudelli told jurors. "Ignore this word, it's merely another descriptive word."
Goldstein said Minucci used the slur when he told Moore he would be taught a lesson for trying to rob white boys. "Is that a hip-hop kind of expression?" she asked the jurors.
The defense has said Minucci was using reasonable force against someone attempting to commit a crime. Moore has admitted that he and two friends had come to the area with the intention of stealing a car, but they hadn't taken anything when they crossed paths with Minucci and his companions.
The attack took place in the same neighborhood as an infamous racial assault in 1986, when a black man was struck by a car while trying to escape a group of attackers.
Gaudelli said prosecutors were "playing the Howard Beach race card."