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White students who bullied black classmate at SJSU escape hate crime convictions

A former San Jose State University student accused of calling his former suite mate racial slurs, hanging a Confederate flag in their living room and barricading him in his bedroom has been found not guilty of committing hate crimes.

The jury hearing the case in Santa Clara County Superior Court also deadlocked on hate crime charges against two other suite mates accused of participating in the attacks against Donald Williams Jr., who was a freshman at the time. Prosecutors said they have not yet decided whether to try again with a new jury.

All three defendants – 21-year-old Joseph Bomgardner of Clovis; 20-year-old Logan Beaschler of Bakersfield; and 20-year-old Colin Warren of Woodacre – were found guilty of misdemeanor battery charges related to their treatment of Williams, who is black.

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The three face up to six months in jail when they are sentenced in March.

Williams has filed a $5-million claim with the California State University system against San Jose State and his former suite mates.

Williams’ attorney, Carl E. Douglas, could not be reached for comment. Lawyers for Warren, Beaschler and Bomgardner could also not be reached.

Warren, Beaschler, Bomgardner and a fourth student were accused of bullying Williams in the summer and fall of 2013, when they all shared a four-bedroom suite on the San Jose campus.

The fourth student has not been identified because he was a juvenile when the bullying took place. His case was handled in juvenile court, and the outcome has not been made public.

None of the four undergraduates accused or convicted of bullying Williams still attends the university.   

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The four suite mates, all of them white, were accused of writing racial epithets on a whiteboard in the suite and decorating the living area with Nazi symbols and pictures of Adolf Hitler. Among the names they used for Williams was “three-fifths,” a reference to the fact that the U.S. Constitution originally counted each slave as three-fifths of a white person, according to prosecutors.

At one point, the white students put a U-shaped lock around Williams' neck, prosecutors said.

Williams’ parents notified campus housing officials about some of the abuse after visiting their son’s suite. Those officials, in turn, reported the situation to campus police.

At the time, then-university President Mohammad Qayoumi said he and the school had “failed” Williams by waiting too long to stop the abuse and punish the students.

The allegation of hate crimes sparked outrage on campus and beyond. Students held protests near the statues of alumni Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two sprinters who won gold and bronze medals, respectively, in the 200-meter race at the 1968 Summer Olympics and raised their black-gloved fists in protest as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played in their honor.

The school has since formed a task force that reviewed the racial climate on campus and made more than 50 recommendations, including increased diversity training for students, more frequent visits to dorm rooms by staff and creating an administrative position that focuses on diversity. The school has also begun searching for a chief diversity officer.

“Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community,” said interim President Sue Martin, who took over after Qayoumi left to take a high-level job in the Afghanistan government.

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