4 teens get probation, house arrest in Long Beach attack
A judge Friday sentenced four black teenagers to probation and 60 days of house arrest for their roles in the mob beatings of three white women on Halloween night, evoking tears of joy among the defendants and their relatives and gasps of indignation among the victims’ families.
“Juvenile Court is a joke,” said Barbara Schneider outside the Long Beach courthouse as her daughter Laura, who suffered a concussion during the attack, sobbed next to her.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas had asked for nine months in probation camp for three of the teenagers. Her jaw dropped when Judge Gibson Lee gave the first defendant probation, and as the hearings went on, she choked up, wiping her eyes with tissue.
Despite testimony that their involvement in the beatings varied, Lee handed identical sentences of probation, house arrest and 250 hours of community service to Anthony and Antoinette Ross, twins who turned 18 during the trial; to their 16-year-old sister; and to another 16-year-old described during the trial as Anthony’s girlfriend.
Another five teenagers convicted in the case are scheduled to be sentenced beginning Monday morning in the Superior Court. They have spent 95 days in custody.
A 10th defendant, the Rosses’ 12-year-old sister, was acquitted of all charges.
The rulings Friday surprised both sides in the case, as Lee had repeatedly denied motions to have the 10 youths released to their families before and during two months of trial, and then Jan. 26 convicted all but one of the assault.
Eight were also found to have committed a hate crime during the attack.
Geraldine Caldwell, the great-aunt of three defendants sentenced Friday, said she never thought when she woke up that morning that the children might be home that evening.
“No way, no way,” she said. “God had his hand in this.”
But juvenile law experts say probation is common for youths with no criminal records.
“The whole idea is not to simply throw people into the criminal justice system,” said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco. “The purpose of the juvenile justice system is not retribution; it’s not even punishment. It’s still rehabilitation.”
Judges are expected to give the least restrictive sentence that would rehabilitate the minor, while protecting public safety, ratcheting up penalties only if initial discipline doesn’t work.
“A tenet of the juvenile system is to give a graduated response to the child acting out,” said Cyn Yamashiro, a professor at Loyola Law School and director of its Center for Juvenile Law and Policy.
The beatings, which took place on a street in Long Beach’s well-to-do Bixby Knolls section known for its lavish Halloween displays, roiled the city with allegations of racial hatred and violence. All 10 defendants maintained their innocence throughout the trial.
“The three months in Juvenile Hall were the hardest months of my life,” said Antoinette Ross, who turned 18 in December. “It hurts to know my life is slowly going down the drain for a crime I did not commit.”
Several of the defendants sentenced Friday were arguably the least likely to get probation.
First up was Anthony, convicted of three counts of assault -- two with hate-crime enhancements and two with enhancements for personally inflicting great bodily harm.
Bouas started her arguments by noting that even as the sentencing was underway, one of the victims, Loren Hyman, was undergoing facial reconstruction surgery to repair the multiple fractures in her nose and around her eye from the beatings.
Bouas called Anthony “the biggest aggressor,” who chose to beat Schneider “when she was already unconscious.” Moreover, she said, he clearly lied on the witness stand in denying his role in the attack.
“In the trial, the minor before you committed perjury,” she told the judge. “If he were to be released home on probation, there would be no accountability for that action.”
She added that a spate of fights in which Anthony was allegedly involved in the eighth and ninth grades showed a “history of violence.”
She asked for the maximum amount of time in camp: nine months.
Anthony told the judge he has been getting his life together, making A’s and Bs, running track, preparing for college. “I had already passed my exit exam and was a few weeks away from taking my SAT,” he said, adding that he wanted to go to Cal State Fullerton because it has an undergraduate law program and good track team.
He said he never lied during his testimony and remained unshaken during a hostile cross-examination. “The D.A. tried to break me, but she couldn’t, because the truth always remains strong.”
Bouas fired back that he was lying even Friday. He was not a good student, she said, with a grade point average of only 2.39.
“The victims will feel like there is no justice if he walks out that door,” she said.
Judge Lee noted that “it was an awful crime, terrible physical and emotional injuries.” But he said he had to “pick the least restrictive disposition.”
He then sentenced Anthony to probation, including 60 days of house arrest, during which he can leave only to go to school or church. The probation lasts until the teenagers are 21, although probation officials can end it earlier if the defendants stay out of trouble. Lee also ordered Anthony to perform 250 hours of community service and to attend an eight-week racial tolerance program offered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Schneiders stormed out of the courtroom and railed against the decision to news cameras outside.
“We’re just disgusted,” Barbara Schneider said in an interview later. “That judge is a joke. He’s going to be recalled. People are going to be screaming about this.”
Later, Laura Schneider and the third victim, Michelle Smith, spoke on the John Ziegler Show on KFI-AM (640) and accused the judge and the district attorney’s office of buckling to political pressure.
The Schneiders did not return to the courtroom as sentencing began for Anthony’s 16-year-old sister, who was not charged with the hate crime or convicted of the great bodily injury enhancement.
Bouas noted that she was the only minor found with blood on her clothes. The prosecutor said the girl came from the same bad home as Anthony and should not be allowed to return without time to rehabilitate in camp.
In a faint, high voice, the girl read a statement saying she was a good kid with good grades. Her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sauter, said she had been to the girl’s house, where there was a “wonderful, loving family.”
Judge Lee gave the 16-year-old the same sentence as her brother.
Bouas, choking up with emotion and weeping at points, accused the next minor, Antoinette, of directly causing Hyman’s injuries, although this was not clear from trial testimony.
“That should have some weight with the court, I would guess, but I’m not sure anymore,” the prosecutor said.
She sarcastically described Antoinette as a “stellar student” with a 1.37 GPA and said she had been involved in 12 fights in school going back to 1998.
Bouas urged the judge to look at each minor as an individual and not give blanket sentences of probation. “If we were really looking individually, she should get nine months in camp,” she said. “If she’s not eligible for a violent offender program, who is?”
Antoinette’s attorney, Kathleen Moreno, said that Bouas was looking at school records dating back to when the girl was 10 and that many of the fights she mentioned were noted in the records as “almost fights.”
Lee again ordered the same package of probation, house arrest and community service.
With the fourth teenager, a 16-year-old girl, the district attorney’s office said she had decent grades and no history of fights and recommended probation. The judge gave her the same sentence as the other three.
The girl’s mother said the sentence was “bittersweet.”
“I’m thrilled to have her home, in the comfort and love of our house,” the mother said, waiting to pick up her daughter at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey. “But we’re still appealing.”
She said the girl had nothing to do with the beating. “My daughter is so scared,” she said. “She cries if you raise your voice. She’s girly. I know without a doubt that my child had nothing to do with this, did not participate in no way, no form.”