Youth in N.Y. Racial Killing Gets Prison

Times Staff Writer

The second of three teen-agers found guilty in the Howard Beach racial attack was sentenced Friday to six to 18 years in prison.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos imposed the sentence on Scott Kern, 19, for being among those who chased a black man to his death in traffic on a highway and assaulted his companions. The incident, in December, 1986, has sparked a debate over race relations in New York City as well as street demonstrations by groups of protesters charging racism.

The sentence was lighter than the maximum prison term of up to 30 years Justice Demakos had imposed on Kern’s companion, Jon Lester, 18, last month.


“I do find redeeming qualities in Scott Kern,” Demakos said. “While Lester was the instigator and exhibited the most hate and thirst for violence, this defendant was a follower.”

Bragged About Beatings

But the justice noted that Kern had bragged about the beatings after they had occurred.

Jason Ladone, 16, the third youth found guilty, is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday. Seven other defendants are scheduled to be tried later this year on other lesser charges stemming from the Howard Beach violence.

The attack began after a car containing several black men broke down near the predominantly white neighborhood of Howard Beach, near Kennedy International Airport. When a group of white teen-agers returning from a birthday party confronted the blacks in front of a pizzeria, sharp words ensued and led to violence.

Michael Griffith, 23, a part-time construction worker, was chased onto a highway, struck by a car and killed. One of his companions, Cedric Sandiford, 37, a mechanic’s assistant, was seriously injured when the teen-agers struck him with a baseball bat and tree limbs.

Two Consecutive Terms

Kern, who had spent time during his trial sketching the judge and lawyers, received consecutive terms of three to nine years in prison on manslaughter and first-degree assault charges. He also received a one-year sentence for conspiracy, to run concurrently.


Emotions ran high in the cavernous courtroom, as they had during Lester’s sentencing. Blacks and whites sat on opposite sides of the center aisle.

“We love you,” Kern’s parents shouted to their son after Demakos pronounced sentence. Some whites stood up and cheered.

“Thank you judge, thank you,” black spectators said.

“I just keep on praying,” said Jean Griffith, mother of the dead victim in the Howard Beach incident, when the sentencing was complete. “There’s no hate in my heart. We’re all God’s children and we just have to keep praying for each other.”