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Victim testifies at hate crime trial

The white woman says a group of black youths beat her and two friends, yelled racial slurs.

December 02, 2006|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

A young woman who suffered multiple facial fractures during a beating Halloween night in Long Beach testified Friday that a crowd of black youths besieged her and two friends after one of them yelled that he hated "white people."

Loren Hymon, 21, took the stand on the fourth day of the trial for nine girls and one boy -- ages 12 to 17 -- accused in the beating on a well-to-do street in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood.

Each of the youths has been charged with three felony counts of assault by any means with intent to produce great bodily injury. Eight of them also are charged with a hate crime enhancement.

The case has garnered national attention because of the inflammatory implications of an alleged black-on-white hate crime. It is being heard in the Long Beach courtroom of Superior Court Judge Gibson W. Lee; the judge, not a jury, will render the verdicts.

Hymon testified that she and two friends went to Linden Avenue to check out haunted houses while waiting for another friend to get off work so they could go to a costume party. She said the hostility started at a haunted house when a black youth grabbed his crotch and demanded, "Are you with it?"

The three women moved through the house and were walking away, she testified, when the youth and others began calling them obscene names and yelling racial slurs.

They got to the sidewalk across the street, she said, when "I was being pummeled with small pumpkins and lemons."

They continued to walk north on Linden as an estimated 25 people chased them down, Hymon testified. Her friend Laura was pulled by the hair into the mob and hit with a skateboard by a male wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt.

"I was kicked in the back of the leg," Hymon said. She testified that she turned to see who had kicked her and was punched in the back of the head, and then in the face.

The punches rained on her, and one "popped" her cheekbone, she said. She tried to open her cellphone to call for help but it was ripped from her hand. And then she fell to the ground.

"Were you crying?" Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas asked.

"I don't know.... I tucked my head under my arms and was just sitting there."

She said she could hear her friends screaming and saw one lying next to her.

A black man arrived and pulled off her attackers and the crowd fled, she testified.

Throughout her testimony Friday, Hymon spoke in a calm, unemotional manner. Her face showed no visible injuries.

The 10 juveniles she faced in court were arrested within an hour or so of the attack, after Hymon and at least one other witness told police they saw some of the attackers drive away in two red cars. Officers found the minors in a nearby parking lot with Hymon's cellphone in one of their cars, according to a police report, and one of the girls admitted she took the phone.

Defense attorneys say they do not plan to argue that the minors were not at the scene that night, nor that the attack occurred, but that their clients did not take part in the beating.

A witness, Kiana Alford, 18, testified earlier this week that she saw all 10 take part, but she misidentified one girl in open court and still faces what promises to be an aggressive cross-examination. Defense attorneys had begun to question how she could distinguish and then recall the specific actions of 10 people -- none of whom she had seen before -- during such a chaotic moment and at night.

Hymon and Alford were taken to the parking lot where the youths were detained that night. Officers told her "they had caught the people they thought were involved and wanted me to identify them," Hymon said.

Hymon only testified to identifying one person Friday before the trial recessed. Alford had said Thursday that she recognized all but one of the people police showed her.

A defense attorney, who asked that his name not be published, said he planned to impeach how the police handled the identifications. He said the victims and witnesses should have been told to describe the attackers before showing them the minors and indicating that they were suspects.

The attorney said all 10 gave statements to the police that two of them were in the car during the attack, but that others may have thrown fruit at the victims.

He said all of their statements were remarkably consistent, and that police used their information to arrest two more boys -- one who is alleged to have swung the skateboard. Both were charged this week and face trial in January.

joe.mozingo@latimes.com

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