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Two Murder Defendants Also Face Charge of Hate Crime : Courts: Prosecutors say the pair embraced white supremacist beliefs. They are accused of shooting an African American man outside a restaurant.

February 04, 1995|CHING-CHING NI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WESTMINSTER — Two men said to have embraced white supremacist beliefs must stand trial on charges of murder and commission of a hate crime in connection with the shooting death of an African American man in Huntington Beach last September, a municipal court judge ruled Friday.

Jonathan Kinsey, 19, who also uses the last name Kennedy, and Robert Wofford, 18, face the charges in the fatal shooting of 44-year-old Vernon Flournoy during a confrontation outside a fast-food restaurant Sept. 15.

After a five-day preliminary hearing, Judge Thomas J. Borris of the Municipal Court in Westminster also charged Kinsey with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and commission of a hate crime in the shooting of two Latino men. The victims, Angel Campos and Juan Vergara, both 22, were attacked in Huntington Beach last August.

Kinsey's public defender, Sharon Petrosino, said Flournoy's slaying was an act of self-defense without racial motivation. Pat McNeal, Wofford's attorney, said his client barely knew Kinsey and had no intention of taking part in the attack on Flournoy.

Kinsey, of Huntington Beach, and Wofford, a Laguna Niguel resident, would face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

During the last day of the preliminary hearings Friday, the prosecution tried to prove that both Kinsey and Wofford were influenced by skinhead ideologies that propelled them to violence against minorities in the name of white supremacy.

An expert on skinhead culture testified that a review of Wofford's school essays and drawings showed that "this person is very committed to the racist skinhead movement philosophy . . . probably a hard core."

Sgt. R.K. Miller of the Huntington Beach Police Department, who has specialized in skinhead investigations, also told the court that ornate tattoos covering Kinsey's body show "his personal affirmation to the racist skinhead philosophy."

He noted the white supremacist tattoos on Kinsey's arms, back and abdomen, which include "SWP" (Supreme White Power), and "Skins," and a picture of a skinhead nailed to a cross.

Miller also read from an essay prosecutors said was written by Wofford.

"I am willing to die for my race," Wofford allegedly wrote in the essay, titled, "Me, Myself and I," which he composed as a student at Valley Vista High School in Fountain Valley.

"I believe in white power. My race is better. I don't care what others think. I don't like minorities. They complain about equal rights. . . . I think white is better no matter who says what."

McNeal said that, even if Wofford wrote the essay, it is only the words of a minor, "which may or may not be what he believes in and what he's willing to act on."

But Petrosino claimed that no skinhead paraphernalia was found at Kinsey's home to indicate he is still affiliated with racist skinheads. Under questioning from Petrosino, Miller acknowledged that some youths adopt the trappings of a skinhead lifestyle without espousing racist views.

Arraignment for both men is scheduled for Feb. 14 in Santa Ana Superior Court.

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