LAGUNA NIGUEL : Teen’s Beating Not Deemed Hate Crime
The Orange County district attorney’s office said Thursday that the attack that hospitalized a black Santa Margarita High School football player will not be prosecuted as a hate crime.
The assault by 25 to 30 males at a Portola Hills party that left 15-year-old Ruben Vaughan with a broken nose, broken jaw and stab wounds was motivated by a high school rivalry, not race, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bruce Patterson.
“When we unraveled it all, it wound up that a rival group was looking for retaliation and stumbled upon (the victims),” Patterson said. “It just happened that one guy was black. It’s very unfortunate. They were looking to get someone from Santa Margarita (High School).”
Derek Thomas Jones, 20, of Huntington Beach has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, causing great bodily injury and attempting to influence a witness.
Russell T. Scarce, 19, of Lake Forest is being prosecuted on charges of causing great bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, using a caustic substance--pepper spray--and assault on a minor.
Also, a 16-year-old Lake Forest juvenile has been arrested in connection with the assault.
Jones and Scarce appeared briefly at a pretrial hearing Thursday in Municipal Court here. They will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.
The decision not to include race-related charges angered political activists, who said they plan to ask the federal government to pursue the case as a hate crime.
Arturo Montes, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said his group will join the 100 Black Men of Orange County to urge federal officials to pursue stiffer hate crime charges.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Meloch said Jones and Scarce had no prior record of racially offensive behavior. Although witnesses say that racial slurs were made during the assault, Meloch said the epithets couldn’t be attributed to the defendants.
Scarce’s attorney, James Sweeney of Mission Viejo, said his client denies assaulting Vaughan.
“There were too many people there that night to be certain who did what to who,” Sweeney said.
Jones’ attorney, Public Defender Loren Mies, declined comment.
According to Sheriff’s Department investigators, Vaughan had been given a flyer announcing the Portola Hills party by one of his football teammates.
Arriving there with another teammate, who is white, Vaughan was assaulted and later hospitalized for four days.
In a hospital press conference, the teen-ager’s stepfather, Melvin Aaron, said the attack had been racially motivated.