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Student Admits Sending Racist Hate Letters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A high school senior from Van Nuys admitted in federal court Thursday that he mailed racist hate letters to his principal, assistant principal and a fellow student, authorities said.

Robert Snyder, 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of mailing threatening communications, Assistant U.S. Atty. Lee Michaelson said. The former Grant High School student faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison plus a $250,000 fine for each count. U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer set sentencing for June 20 so that Snyder can complete the school year and graduate, Michaelson said.

Snyder, now attending an undisclosed continuation school in Los Angeles, must also publicly apologize to the two school administrators and football player he threatened, possibly in the school newspaper, Michaelson said.

Defense attorney Donald J. Calabria said Snyder regretted the letters and has been receiving counseling. Calabria added that Snyder had been influenced by friends and had not appreciated how serious his actions were.

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“What can you do when you’ve made a mistake? All you can do is put your best foot forward,” Calabria said, adding that Snyder was trying to do that now.

On Thursday, Snyder admitted mailing two threatening letters to a black quarterback of the school’s football team, warning the athlete on Nov. 1 and Nov. 30 to “Keep your hands off White Girls.”

He admitted sending a similar letter dated Nov. 26 to Assistant Principal Joseph Walker, who also is black.

To Principal Robert Collins, a white man married to a black woman, Snyder admitted mailing a Nov. 26 letter that called the principal “another brand of ignorance that me and my friends are going to have to take care of.”

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Michaelson said the case was important because hate crimes appear to be on the rise, many of them carried out by teen-agers and young adults.


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