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Victim Testifies He Pulled Knife When Threatened by Youths with Bats

October 15, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ One of the victims of an alleged racial assault in the Howard Beach section of Queens testified today that he and two other black men were confronted by 10 whites with bats, sticks and an iron pipe.

Timothy Grimes, 19, was the first of two surviving victims to testify in the murder and manslaughter trial of four white teen-agers.

One of the three victims, Michael Griffith, 23, died after he was struck by a car, allegedly after being chased onto a highway.

Grimes, a junior high school dropout who admitted that he had been arrested several times on drug, robbery and assault charges, said he, Griffith and a third man were leaving the New Park Pizzeria in Howard Beach Dec. 19 when they saw ″about three guys with things in their hands.″

Those three soon were joined by about seven others, all white, Grimes testified. He said they were carrying bats, sticks and an iron pipe.

One youth slammed a bat to the ground twice and said to the others, ″Hit the niggers,″ Grimes testified.

″And at this point did you do anything?″ asked special state prosecutor Charles J. Hynes.

″Yes, I pulled out my knife,″ Grimes said.

″And what did you do with the knife?″

″I displayed it in front of me.″

Grimes said he then ran around the group of whites, one of whom threw a stick that hit him in the back. He said he ran onto the Belt Parkway, where he eventually was given a ride to a subway station and went home to Brooklyn.

Defense attorneys maintain that the three blacks were not innocent victims but rather were instigators of a confrontation with the whites.

Jon J. Lester, 18, and Scott Kern, 18, are charged with murder and lesser crimes. Jason Ladone, 16, and Michael Pirone, 17, are charged with manslaughter and other crimes. They are on trial in State Supreme Court in Queens.

On Wednesday one witness, 16-year-old Claudia Calogero, was declared by Justice Thomas Demakos to be a hostile witness. The declaration gives prosecutors wider latitude in questioning.

Miss Calogero and Laura Castagna, 16, who had accompanied some of the white youths accused of later attacking the three blacks, disputed elements of the prosecution’s case, during testimony Wednesday.

The girls did not support charges that the white youths had a baseball bat and at two points yelled racial slurs. Prosecutors suggested the testimony was inconsistent with what the girls told police.

Miss Calogero said she is a former girlfriend of defendant Kern. She said she was being driven home from a party by Salvatore DeSimone, 19, when he braked his car as three black men crossed the street. She said Lester also was in the car. DeSimone was charged with riot and is to be tried with six other youths later.

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