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New charges sought in beating case

Defense attorneys ask the judge to reject an attempt by the prosecutor to file new counts in the Long Beach attack.

January 04, 2007|Joe Mozingo | Times Staff Writer

Defense attorneys for black youths accused of assaulting three white women in Long Beach on Halloween night asked the judge Wednesday to reject an attempt by the prosecution to file new charges against their clients.

The nine girls and one boy are charged with three counts of assault with intent to cause great bodily harm. Eight of them face two crime enhancements: for allegedly committing a hate crime and for personally inflicting great bodily injury on a victim.

The charging sheets, called petitions, are under seal. But defense attorneys said Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas wants an additional minor, a 16-year-old girl, to face a hate crime enhancement. And Bouas intends to drop an allegation that four of the defendants gravely injured victim Laura Schneider, substituting instead an accusation that they severely injured victim Loren Hyman. Initially, testimony and discovery documents suggested that prosecutors were going to focus on the assault against Schneider, 19, who was allegedly hit in the face with a skateboard. But Bouas never called Schneider to the stand.

Instead, the prosecution's case, which Bouas rested last week, centered on Hyman, who suffered 10 fractures in her nose and around her left eye.

The proposed changes in the charges are significant. In addition to toughening penalties if the minors are convicted, the enhancements would give them a "strike" that would remain on their adult criminal record.

Defense attorney Kathleen Moreno argued that Bouas should not be allowed to alter the charges so late in the trial because it would deny her the opportunity to meaningfully confront the accusers on her client's behalf.

For instance, Moreno, who represents an 18-year-old female, said she would have more thoroughly questioned Hyman's statement that a blow to her face that made her "cheek pop" felt like it had come from a male. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gibson Lee said he would decide whether to accept the amended petitions after reading both sides' written arguments. The judge's announcement capped a contentious day in court largely spent hearing defense motions to dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

During the arguments, Bouas vigorously defended her key witness, Kiana Alford, who provided the only testimony linking six of the 10 minors to the assault. Alford testified that she watched the attack from her car, and provided a detailed account of how it occurred. "She was brilliant that night," Bouas said. "She did a phenomenal job telling you what happened. She was never rattled."

The defense attorneys pointed out significant contradictions in Alford's testimony on cross-examination, however. Most notably, they focused on her statement that she could not make out what individuals were doing during the attack because it was too dark and she was too far away.

Attorney Frank Williams noted that Alford could only identify the minors that police presented to her as suspects, and could not describe anyone else among the 30 people that she said joined the attack.

"If she can describe everyone who is caught, and no one who isn't, perhaps ... a reasonable person would consider that to be a little precarious," Williams said.

Lee was unswayed by the two motions to dismiss that he considered Wednesday, and in a barely audible voice denied them without explanation. The judge rejected six similar motions Tuesday.

Today, the defense is expected to call Lineshia Hill, Alford's companion on the night of the attacks. According to a statement from a defense investigator given to the district attorney, Hill said she and Alford arrived at the scene of the beatings after the attack had ended.

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