Alleged Gunman in Racial Attack Held Without Bail After Innocent Plea
NEW YORK (AP) _ A teen-ager alleged to have shot dead a black youth in a white neighborhood pleaded innocent to a murder charge Friday and was ordered held without bail.
Joseph Fama, 18, was placed in protective custody at his lawyer’s request after a hearing in Brooklyn Criminal Court, said Correction Department spokesman Tom Antenen.
In other developments Friday, a second suspect in the racially charged case indicated he was ready to cooperate with a grand jury probe, and tensions erupted into violence outside a courtroom.
Prosecutors said Fama was a leader of the gang of whites who chased four black teen-agers with baseball bats, golf clubs and at least one gun on the night of Aug. 23. One of the blacks, 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins, was shot in the chest and died.
The murder of Hawkins has touched off a series of protests and marches against racism, some of them met by counter-protests by residents of the mostly Italian-American neighborhood of Bensonhurst where the killing occurred.
Fama fled after the shooting and remained a fugitive until early Thursday when he surrendered to police in upstate Oneonta. He was returned to the city, and witnesses identified him in a lineup, said Assistant District Attorney Paul Burns.
Hours after his return, an estimated 7,500 protesters clashed with police during a ″Day of Outrage″ march against racism through Brooklyn. Twenty- three officers were injured in the brawl.
″I’m sure some of them came there because they had all good intentions, but others clearly came with bricks and bottles bent on violence,″ Mayor Edward I. Koch said.
In court, Fama attorney David A. DePetris entered an innocent plea for his client and challenged Burns on what the lineups produced.
″A number of individuals who viewed Mr. Fama did not identify him in any way, shape or form,″ the lawyer said. ″There is substantial dispute as to what actually occurred at the lineups.″
Fama said nothing during the arraignment.
He is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing, riot and aggravated harassment.
Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman said later her office and the police were looking for others who many have participated in the attack.
Also on Friday, another suspect, 19-year-old Joseph Serrano, appeared before Criminal Court Judge Seymour Gerschwer and indicated he wanted to cooperate with the grand jury investigating the incident. His lawyer, Joseph DeCandia, would not elaborate and said he was leaving the case.
Serrano, who has not been indicted, remains free on $75,000 bail.
In addition to Serrano, five other Bensonhurst youths have been arrested in the attack. Two of them - Keith Mondello, 19, and Pasquale Raucci, 18 - have been indicted on murder charges.
At their arraignment in a jammed courtroom at Brooklyn state Supreme Court, both pleaded innocent and Justice John J. DeLury refused prosecutors’ request that bail be revoked and allowed Mondello to remain free on $100,000 bail and Raucci on $75,000.
The ruling shocked and outraged Hawkins’ family and their supporters.
″Oh my God,″ said the victim’s father, Freddy Stewart.
A tense confrontation followed a few moments later with the Rev. Al Sharpton, an adviser to the Hawkins family, shouting threats at Mondello’s lawyer Stephen Murphy and calling him a murderer.
A few minutes later, outside the courthouse, a Sharpton supporter attacked a WNYW-TV camera crew that refused to stop filming Hawkins’ family.
″I was kicked in the arm, punched and pushed,″ said Barbara Lloyd, a technician.
Ms. Lloyd and cameraman Nick Jutchenko, who also said he was punched, said they would file a complaint against the attacker.
New York Newsday photographer Lilliana Nieto was also attacked by the group. She said that while she was taking photographs of Ms. Lloyd being attacked, Sharpton yelled ″Get her″ and someone smacked her in the face and head.