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Black Activist Found Guilty in Second Trial : Courts: Jitu Sadiki claimed prosecution on burglary charge was racially motivated. He won a new trial after conviction last year.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A black community activist who claimed his prosecution for a Culver City burglary was racially motivated was convicted Wednesday for the second time in the case.

Supporters, including members of a group called the Civil Rights Congress, denounced the verdict as “another example of how the system doesn’t work for black men,” and vowed to raise funds for an appeal.

Jitu Sadiki, 34, of South-Central Los Angeles, was convicted last year of breaking into a beauty salon and attempting to enter an adjacent pawn shop. But he won a new trial on the basis of incompetent counsel. This time, a Santa Monica jury of 11 whites and one black deliberated for less than two days before finding him guilty of two counts of second-degree burglary.

Sadiki, who had been free on $2,500 bail, was immediately taken into custody on orders from Superior Court Judge James Albracht, with sentencing set for July 18. He faces a maximum of three years and eight months in state prison.

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He already has served six years in prison on a murder conviction.

The defendant’s father, Otis Smith, said his son “wasn’t prepared for this. He thought he’d be convicted on lesser charges, if at all.” Smith said he and his wife will care for their son’s three adopted children, ages 3 to 6.

Jurors said afterward that their decision “wasn’t easy,” because the case came down to whether they believed Sadiki or the white police officer who identified him as the man he chased out the back entrance of the Deja Vu beauty shop two years ago.

“We all felt under pressure,” said one juror, who asked not to be identified. She added, however, that there was a gradual convergence of views in the jury room, with never any danger of a hung jury. The lone black juror said she did not want to talk about her decision.

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Sadiki, who did not testify at his second trial, maintained that he had been in a nearby bar at the time of the crime. However, patrons of the bar, frequented mostly by homosexual women, testified that no black man was present that night.

He claimed to have been shot at and beaten by Culver City police, who acknowledged that they used force to restrain him after he allegedly tried to take an officer’s gun during a struggle.

In calling for a new trial in the case, a Santa Monica Superior Court judge had ruled that the first defense attorney did not put on “the best possible defense.”

Complicating matters, the boots Sadiki was wearing on the night of his arrest--and which conceivably could have exonerated him if they did not match prints found at the scene--were mistakenly discarded by authorities a year later.

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Todd Melnik, who prosecuted Sadiki in both trials, said he was glad the issue has been settled. “There was no racism involved; the police department acted in good faith,” he said. “I will not not deny that racial incidents do occur in the police force, but this is not one of them.”

Sadiki’s attorney, Robert Harris, declined to comment.

Melnik said that Sadiki has demonstrated a pattern of not telling the truth, including the facts surrounding his earlier convictions for murder and car theft. He claimed to have been hospitalized at the time of the murder for which he was convicted, Melnik said, and after the medical records were shown to have been fabricated, he claimed he shot in self-defense.

The prosecutor said Sadiki had turned a routine burglary case into a media campaign. His cause attracted supporters as diverse as former football player Jim Brown and anti-police abuse crusader Don Jackson, and raised about $15,000 for his defense.

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His case appeared to many to be another example of trial by skin color. And his supporters noted that he had turned his life around since being released from prison eight years ago.

Sadiki’s father said this isn’t the first time prejudice has touched his family.

Another of his sons, Danny Smith, died after being shot seven times in the back by Culver City police five years ago, he said. The elder Smith said a wrongful death lawsuit, filed on behalf of the two youngsters the victim left behind, is to be heard next month.


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