More suspects sought in SI hate crime

November 17, 2008 9:14:37 AM PST
Additional suspects are being sought in an election night bias attack on a black teenager, prosecutors said. "This is a despicable crime," Staten Island Assistant District Attorney Mario Mattei said. "They were out to target black people."

Ralph Nicoletti and Bryan Garaventa, who are white, are charged with assault as a hate crime and weapon possession. They are accused of beating Alie Kamara, a 17-year-old Liberian native, with a pipe and an expandable police baton, while yelling "Obama!"

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice also are investigating, the DA's office said.

Kamara, who required staples in his head and suffered extensive bruises, called his mother on his cell phone and pleaded: "Please don't let me die, Mama."

"He thought they were going to kill him," Jeneba Ladepo told the New York Post. "He said, 'four white boys jumped me. I'm bleeding."' Prosecutors said they were also investigating whether the defendants yelled racial slurs from their car at people gathered to celebrate Barack Obama's victory.

According to court papers, the defendants allegedly had decided to go to the predominantly black area and to use the baton, and used slurs while referring to both the neighborhood and the weapon.

"The heinousness of this crime is that they set out to prey on African-Americans and Alie happened to be the person they came upon," said District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

Defense attorneys Andrew Rendeiro and Nancy Bartling declined to comment on the allegations. However, both attorneys said their clients had hoped to join the Marines.

Rendeiro said Garaventa had never had "any contact" with the criminal justice system. Bartling said Nicoletti lives at home and takes care of his terminally ill mother, and has relatives who work at the Department of Homeland Security.

Judge Desmond Green set bail at $10,000 cash or $25,000 bond on Sunday and ordered the defendants to return to court on Thursday.

If convicted, they could face 15 years in prison.

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