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Four Defendants Plead Innocent To Racist Killing

September 18, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Five white defendants pleaded innocent Monday to charges of murder in the racist killing of a black youth. Four were allowed to remain free on bail, prompting an angry outcry from the victim’s father.

″You should have kept them in here,″ Moses Stewart, father of Yusuf Hawkins, shouted at Justice Thaddeus Owens at state court in Brooklyn. ″Letting murderers walk home ...″

Owens responded by calling for order in the courtroom, which was filled with supporters of Hawkins’ family.

″I do a solo act here,″ the judge said.

Minutes before, he accepted innocent pleas from James Patino, 24; Keith Mondello, 18; Pasquale Raucci, 19; and Joseph Serrano, 19.

The alleged triggerman, Joseph Fama, 18, appeared in court later and also entered an innocent plea. He is being held without bail.

Hawkins, 16, was shot to death Aug. 23 when he and three friends went to the predominantly white Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn to look at a used car that had been advertised for sale.

The four black youths were set upon by a mob of about 30 whites carrying bats, golf clubs and at least one bat. Police said the whites mistakenly believed that Hawkins and his companions were friends of a white neighborhood girl.

The case has raised racial tensions in the city and is believed to have been a factor in Mayor Edward I. Koch’s defeat in last week’s Democratic primary.

At Monday’s hearing, Owens refused a prosecution request to raise or revoke the $75,000 bail for Serrano and Patino, based on the new indictment. Owens said he may reconsider the request after reviewing the grand jury notes.

Mondello is out on $100,000 bail and Raucci is out on $75,000 bail. Assistant District Attorney Paul Burns said he was not legally able to ask for any change in their bail because the charges against them had not changed.

In a letter Saturday to Owens, Hawkins’ father asked that bail be revoked.

″These defendants have now been indicted for the most heinous crimes in this society,″ Stewart said. ″Release on bail pending trial sends a dangerous message to other persons who are contemplating murdering a young person of African descent because of race.″

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