Three San Jose State University students were charged today with misdemeanor hate crime and battery after allegedly confining their black roommate with a bike lock and subjecting him to racial taunts, a prosecutor said. University police this afternoon were preparing arrests warrants for college freshmen Colin Warren, Joseph Bomgardner and Logan Beaschler, who are all 18, according to Deputy District Attorney Erin West.
They each face up to a year in county jail if convicted of the two misdemeanor charges, West said. Sgt. John Laws, spokesman for the San Jose State University police, 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 in one the high-rise Campus Village Buildings housing university students on campus, Laws said. Between Aug. 20 and Oct. 13 this year, the three defendants lived with the then 17-year-old black student, also a freshman, and four other white male students in an eight-person suite, West said.
The three defendants 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 are alleged to have 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.
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