Prosecutors on Wednesday filed misdemeanor hate-crime and battery charges against San Jose State University students over alleged hazing of a roommate. Terry McSweeney reports.
Members of the Black Students Union at San Jose State University plan to rally Thursday on campus to demand answers over the reported tormenting of an African-American freshman that included putting a bike lock around his neck, hanging Nazi symbols around the apartment and writing the N-word on a dry eraser board in the suite that they shared.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed misdemeanor hate-crime and battery charges against three students accused of committing the racist acts against the victim in an on-campus housing complex.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West identified the suspects as college freshmen Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre in Marin County in the Bay Area; Joseph Bomgardner, 19, of Clovis in Fresno County, and Logan Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield at the Southern Edge of San Joaquin County in between Fresno and Los Angeles.
If convicted, they face a maximum of one year in jail.
The Mercury News was the first to report the story.
San Jose State University Police Sgt. John Laws said that after an investigation of a report they received on Oct. 14, the incidents "appear to meet the criteria for a hate crime."
The incidents reportedly took place at the high-rise Campus Village Buildings, which houses university students on campus, Laws said.
Between Aug. 20 and Oct. 13, the three students lived with the then 17-year-old student, also a freshman, and four other white male students in an eight-person suite, West said.
The three white roommates allegedly called their black roommate "three-fifths" and "fraction" and put up a Confederate flag in the campus suite they shared, West said.
"Three-fifths" is a reference to the fraction the U.S. Census used to count black slaves in the South in the 18th and early 19th centuries for the purpose of representation in Congress.
In early September, the defendants allegedly placed a "U" shaped bike lock on his neck and refused to give him the key for five to 10 minutes before finally letting him out, West said.
On another occasion, they tried to lock him in it again but he resisted and fought them and in the process bruised his lip, which led to the battery charge, West said.
The district attorney's office decided to file the misdemeanor hate crime based on the atmosphere the three men subjected the victim to endure, West said.
"They gave him a racial nickname," West said. "They continued to place a Confederate flag in the common area of the suite."
The suite where the eight students lived included a common kitchen, two hallways, two bedrooms and two baths, West said.
At one point, the three students together barricaded the victim in his bedroom with furniture and other items to keep him in, attempted to lock him in a closet and took away his shoes, West said.
Also contributing to the atmosphere of a hate crime, this time anti-Semitism, the defendants kept a photo of Adolf Hitler and placed a swastika on the picture of a person in a magazine, according to West.
They also put a picture of a pentagram on a wall of the suite that the black student, who is a Christian, found offensive, West said.
"He was targeted because he was different, because he was black," West said.
Prosecutors decided to file the hate crime charge "because of the bullying, the symbols of hatred in the room, as well as the fact he was the only person of color in the suite and he was the only one targeted," West said.
All three of the defendants were 18 during the time of the incidents and the victim was still a juvenile at 17, although he has since turned 18, West said.
The victim told the San Jose Mercury that he never experienced that type of mistreatment, even though he was one of a handful black students at his high school in Santa Cruz.
"I'm still in shock," he said to the newspaper. "I tried not to dwell on this. But my family is upset and I'm upset."
SJSU spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said all new students are required to take sensitivity training during orientation.
Officials said multiple investigations are taking place over the reported incidents, including a Title IX investigation to determine if federal statutus concerning harassment and discrimination have been violated.