Rights Charge Filed in Slaying of Jewish Scholar : Crime: Youth facing the federal charge had been acquitted of the stabbing, which took place as racial riots began in New York’s Crown Heights section.
A teen-ager acquitted of killing a Jewish scholar during riots in the Crown Heights neighborhood in 1991 will be returned to New York to be retried, this time for violating the victim’s civil rights.
Lemrick Nelson, 18, appeared at a detention hearing Thursday at the U.S. Courthouse in Atlanta, where he now lives.
He was indicted in federal court in Brooklyn. A federal prosecutor from Brooklyn and an FBI agent were sent to Atlanta to take Nelson into custody, his lawyer, Tony Axam, said in a telephone interview.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, the FBI and the Brooklyn federal prosecutor’s office refused Thursday to comment on the case.
The reopening of the case culminates months of lobbying by New York lawmakers--including Brooklyn Dist. Atty. Charles Hynes, whose office lost the original case--to have the Justice Department investigate.
Federal charges are often sought when local authorities fail to produce convictions in high-profile cases.
Nelson was accused of joining a gang of up to 30 youths who surrounded and killed Yankel Rosenbaum, an ultra-Orthodox Jew from Australia who was visiting Lubavitcher Jewish headquarters in Brooklyn.
The stabbing took place Aug. 19, 1991, as three days of racial rioting began in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The violence was set off by the death of a 7-year-old black child, who was killed when he was struck by a car traveling in a motorcade of Lubavitchers.
Police said that Nelson, who is black, had a bloody knife in his pocket when arrested and that he later confessed to the stabbing. By the time the case reached trial, Nelson denied committing the crime and claimed that police had planted the knife on him. He was found innocent in 1992.
Axam is representing Nelson on a charge of aggravated assault in connection with a razor attack on a fellow student at Shamrock High School in Atlanta. That case has not come to trial. The Atlanta Journal reported that Nelson’s victim allegedly had claimed that Nelson bragged about stabbing Rosenbaum.