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Hate Crime Victims Describe their Anguish

May 9, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Hate crime victims, some speaking through sobs and some with unvarnished anger, described at a hearing Wednesday the murders, stabbings, beatings and firebombings that have ravaged their lives.

″My brother Jimmy was a kind, loving, caring person,″ said Peggy Marlow. But because James Zappalorti was homosexual, she said, two men stabbed him, slit his throat and threw him into the water off his Staten Island home.

″They slaughtered him,″ Ms. Marlow said. ″All because he was gay.″

Others told of equally senseless attacks: A man who was called a ″faggot″ and viciously beaten, a black man whose home in a mainly white neighborhood was firebombed, a rabbi whose synagogue was daubed with pro-Nazi graffiti.

″I don’t understand the hatred,″ said a woman, whose name was withheld. She suffered cornea damage when the leader of a gang of black youths jabbed her eye with a pin last year.

Wilfred Phillips said he was ″so disappointed with the people″ of the neighborhood when saw his firebombed home in February. ″I’m not accusing nobody, any one person. But I think it’s a big disgrace,″ he said.

The hearing, called by City Council President Andrew Stein, comes at a time of a dispute between black residents and Korean grocers in Brooklyn, and jury deliberations are under way in last summer’s slaying of a black youth by a white gang.

The number of hate crimes reported to police has more than doubled since 1984, Stein said. And Inspector Paul M. Sanderson, head of the bias squad, said two-thirds of the crimes have gone unsolved.

″They are random, isolated and spontaneous,″ making arrests difficult, Sanderson said. Still, he noted that in 2,900 cases the squad has investigated since 1980, there have been 1,300 arrests.

The problem is largely one of youth, Sanderson said: In 70 percent of the cases the perpetrators are younger than 19, and in 40 percent they are minors.

The group that attacked Bruce Ellerin was made up of teen-agers. One called him a ″faggot,″ he recalled. Words were exchanged and they beat him so badly he suffered a broken cheekbone and a detached retina.

What worsened the ordeal, Ellerin said, was the police insensitivity and indifference that followed. ″As soon as they heard the word ‘faggot’ they made up their minds that this was not the most serious of incidents,″ he said.

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