Outraged by the stabbing of a black man near the Ventura Pier, a Ventura County judge on Monday decried the crime, ordering the 17-year-old alleged white supremacist charged with the assault to be tried as an adult.
"It is a hideous, despicable, odious act," Superior Court Judge Steven Z. Perren declared.
Calling the stabbing "a pure unadulterated act of racial hatred," Perren set bail for Robert Reeves at $250,000 and scheduled his arraignment for today on one count of assault with a deadly weapon.
As the judge pronounced his ruling, Reeves wept and wiped away tears with his left hand, tattooed with a swastika.
Throughout the hourlong hearing, when some details about Reeves' life surfaced for the first time, the defendant repeatedly glanced at the man he is accused of stabbing in the stomach on Jan. 30.
The victim, 37-year-old Kerry Leonard Boles, sat silently for most of the hearing, but occasionally sighed as Reeves' lawyer claimed his client was just letting off steam and did not commit a hate crime during the stabbing.
Prosecutors say Reeves stabbed the reggae musician because the victim was sitting with a white woman near the pier. Reeves screamed racial epithets at the couple, ordered them from the area and then chased and stabbed Boles, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kim G. Gibbons said.
Boles, who was hospitalized, is still recovering from the attack. He walked slowly and gingerly from the courtroom Monday and said after the hearing that Perren was "a good judge."
He was accompanied at the hearing by Jamie Thompson, 21, of Ventura, who was with him when he was attacked.
Prosecutors had asked Perren to order Reeves tried as an adult because of the seriousness of the attack and the failure of previous attempts to rehabilitate him as a juvenile.
"This was totally unprovoked. There was no excuse for this," Gibbons argued, claiming that "The motivation for this assault was racist."
But Deputy Public Defender James Harmon denied the racism charge.
Harmon attributed his client's behavior to too much alcohol and stress from a "severe family dysfunction." Reeves selected Boles as a random victim, the public defender contended--a statement that left Boles shaking his head.
"He was just drunk and looking for a fight and pretty much picked the first person he stumbled upon," Harmon said.
Harmon said Reeves comes from a broken family. Reeves' father is homeless and does not support his son, he said. Reeves' mother lives in Los Angeles and does not provide care for him or two of his brothers.
Those duties fall to Reeves' grandmother, who sat quietly through the hearing. She left the courthouse without commenting.
To demonstrate that Reeves gets along with blacks, Harmon said that the defendant was initially disappointed to learn while locked up in juvenile custody last year that his mother was dating a black man. But after several counseling sessions with his mother and her boyfriend, Reeves came to accept the man and even visited the couple in their Los Angeles home, Harmon said.
"They had a relationship that was fairly comfortable," he said of Reeves and the boyfriend.
Harmon told the judge that society would be better served if Reeves is tried as a juvenile. He said that as an adult Reeves would not get treatment for any racism he harbors. Instead, he would be housed in an adult prison with members of the Aryan Nation and come out meaner than he already is, Harmon said.
"It's important at this stage for you to really think about what you want him to be like when he comes back to live with the rest of us," Harmon told the judge.
Reeves, who is also charged with committing a racially motivated crime, faces up to 10 years in prison. Under new sentencing guidelines, he would have to serve 85% of that prison term if convicted, Perren said. As a juvenile, he would have faced being locked up for at least seven years, two months, officials said.
Perren said he seriously doubted that Reeves could be rehabilitated by the California Youth Authority.
That doubt, along with the serious nature of the attack on Boles, was reason enough to send the defendant to adult court, the judge said. He added that there was no doubt in his mind that the attack was racially motivated.
"He has decided that by emblazoning his flesh with a swastika, and then he goes out and stabs a black man," the judge said.