NEW YORK — The second of three white teen-agers convicted of chasing a black man to his death on a highway in Howard Beach was sentenced today to six to 18 years in prison for his role in the racially charged attack.
State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos said he gave a lighter sentence to Scott Kern, 19, than he did to a previous defendant, Jon Lester, 18, because he found "redeeming qualities" in Kern.
Kern, a skilled artist with no other criminal record, was sentenced to three to nine years in prison on a manslaughter charge for participating in the Dec. 20, 1986, chase that led to the death of Michael Griffith, 23. Kern was sentenced to another three to nine years for the "savage beating" of Cedric Sandiford, 37, who was attacked with tree limbs, a crowbar and a baseball bat.
Griffith and Sandiford had stopped at a pizzeria to use a telephone after their car broke down. The gang of whites left a birthday party after hearing the blacks were at the pizza shop and attacked and chased them.
Demakos ordered the terms to run consecutively because there were two "separate and distinct crimes." Kern could have received 10 to 15 years for each conviction.
A one-year sentence for conspiracy is to run concurrently.
'We Love You' Shouts
"We love you," Kern's parents shouted tearfully as the youth stood up after the sentence was read, and whites who packed one side of the tense, cavernous courtroom stood and cheered.
"Thank you, judge! Thank you," blacks on the other side of the courtroom cheered.
Demakos' tone was milder today than on Jan. 22 when he sentenced ringleader Lester to the maximum 10 to 30 years for an act of "hatred and callousness."
"I do find redeeming qualities in Scott Kern," Demakos said. "While Lester was the instigator and exhibited the most hate and a thirst for violence, this defendant was a follower."
But Demakos criticized Kern not only for Griffith's death and Sandiford's beating but also for bragging about the incidents at a pizzeria after the attack in the predominantly white neighborhood.
Kern's lawyer, Gabriel Leone, said he was disappointed by the sentence.
"The judge did find redeeming qualities in Scott Kern, and that doesn't merit a consecutive sentence," he said, adding that Kern is confident the decision will be reversed on appeal.