3 Teens Face Prison in Paintball Attacks
Three teen-agers who videotaped their drive-by paint pellet and baseball bat attacks on a dozen random victims face four-year prison terms under plea bargains reached Friday.
Attorneys for both sides agreed that the sentences were stiff, but prosecutors said they were justified in a case that drew the line between youthful mischief and serious criminal behavior.
The 20-minute videotape, which shocked a national television audience, showed the defendants taunting pedestrians and bicyclists and howling with laughter as they aimed for their faces and fired a paintball gun during late-night attacks in the San Fernando Valley.
The guns, used for war games in which participants wear protective gear, fire paint pellets at up to 300 feet per second. Some victims at first appeared to believe that they had been shot with bullets.
“It’s a sad commentary on society that kids think this is funny,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert L. Cohen. “This is a far cry from a childish prank. I think it is reprehensible behavior.”
He added: “It’s very rare to get a look into people’s minds while they’re doing their crimes. These were mainstream kids. They were doing OK in school. But I can’t believe this is what most kids are doing.”
Anthony Skoblar, 18, and Javier Perez, 17, pleaded no contest to a single felony count of vandalism and four counts of assault using force likely to cause great bodily injury. Malcolm Boyd, 18, pleaded guilty to similar counts. All three will return July 8, when Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Sandy R. Kriegler will formally sentence them.
Skoblar was the driver of the car, Boyd rode in the passenger seat and Perez supplied the paintballs, the video shows.
Skoblar’s attorney, William Graysen, said he will call character witnesses and perhaps some of the paintball victims to try to persuade the judge that Skoblar is remorseful and does not deserve such a harsh sentence.
Graysen said he has videotaped Skoblar being shot with paintballs and visiting the Museum of Tolerance in order to demonstrate to the judge that he has learned from his brush with the law.
“He’s not the monster on the tape. He’s a decent human being,” Graysen said. “I think there’s been a visceral reaction” to the tape. “People are very angry.”
The defendant’s father, Tony Skoblar, a waiter at an upscale Beverly Hills restaurant, told reporters: “They should be punished, but it’s a lot of time. Why are [prosecutors] destroying their lives?”
As his father spoke, Skoblar lunged at a television camera operator, pushing the lens away. He left court with his arm draped over the shoulders of his sobbing mother, Nada, a school cafeteria worker.
The pleas followed intense negotiations with prosecutor Cohen, who told the defense attorneys that the conduct captured in the videotape had earned their clients stiff prison sentences despite their clean records and youth.
A week ago, 18-year-old Ruffy Flores, who had held the camera, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Asked why the suspects had gone on the paintball and car-bashing rampage, Flores told Kriegler: “Basically, we had nothing to do.”
The videotape documents the foursome breaking into peals of laughter--first as they bashed seven cars with metal bats, and later as they fired orange paintballs at eight pedestrians, two bicyclists, a man sitting on a bench and a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart.
“That’s what the sport is all about--making people p---ed off,” one of the young men says on the tape. Another adds, “People think we’re crazy, but I just think it’s really fun.”
Later, Boyd, leaning out of the car with a bat, says, “Ya wanna see me swing? Get ready for a surprise,” and he bashes a parked car with a bat. “That’s my coffee and my psychiatry. If I feel down on myself, I just do a little bashing,” he adds.
One of the defendants jokes on the tape about playing “human head baseball,” and the attacks soon turn toward people.
Eventually, the paintball gun is brought into play. “Life’s a bitch,” Boyd says as he fires, then brags: “I got him in the face.” Skoblar urges him on: “Shoot for the face.”
Boyd’s lawyer, Leonard Levine, described the defendants as “victims of the public’s total revulsion of crime, and juvenile crime in particular. But most of all, they’re victims of their own actions and their own stupidity.”
One of the paintball victims, Ann Burgers, described the attack when she testified during the preliminary hearing: “Well, one of them came up to me and said, ‘You got any change?’ Next thing I know, I’m being hit by paintballs. I know I wiped the paint out of my hair and it felt like blood.”