Three San Jose State University students in California have been charged with racially bullying their black roommate by clamping a bicycle lock around his neck and decorating their four bedroom suite with a Confederate flag, Nazi symbols, photographs of Adolf Hitler and a white board with a racial epithet, prosecutors said.
The three students Logan Beaschler, 18; Joseph Bomgardner, 19; and Colin Warren, 18 of Woodacre are charged with misdemeanor hate crime and battery, the Santa Clara district attorney’s office said. The defendants face a maximum sentence of one year in county jail if convicted, prosecutors said.
The 17-year old roommate who was alleged victim wasn’t named by prosecutors. He suffered a minor injury when he fought off the bike lock around his neck, prosecutors said. When the African-American student objected to that name, the three roommates in the campus housing began calling him “Fraction,” the prosecutor’s office said. The alleged harassment began in August and lasted through October, prosecutors said.
San Jose State’s president, Mohammad Qayoumi, said in a letter to the student body Thursday that the three students have been suspended. “Let me be clear: I am outraged and saddened by these allegations. They are utterly inconsistent with our long cherished history of tolerance, respect for diversity and personal civility,” Qayoumi’s letter said. Members of the alleged victim’s family released a statement saying they were “deeply disturbed by the horrific behaviors that have take place against our son.”
“Our immediate focus is his protection,” the family said. We have taken a stand on this matter. Our response prompted the community to be alerted of the appalling conduct of the students involved. A total of eight men were living in the four bedroom suite, but the remaining four students turned their back on the racial harassment, the prosecutor said.
“The other four were aware of this (but) . . . did not stand up” and allowed the harassment, Rosen said. Parents saw the Confederate flag in the dorm suite and “the N-Word scrawled on a white board.” Rosen said. But the black roommate objected to the harassment and sometimes “barricaded” himself in his room, Rosen said. “The young man in this case was terrorized. It was difficult for him to study,” Rosen said. “He told them not to do this to him.”
Qayoumi said the university police immediately began investigating the allegations “the day our housing staff learned of the situation.”The same day the investigation began, two of the roommates were moved to other residence halls and placed in single rooms.
"A third suite-mate, originally believed to be a bystander, was identified yesterday as an offender. We regret he was not removed from the victim's suite before today," Qayoumi said.
Frustrated student leaders, some wearing tape over their mouths, rushed the stage Monday after San Jose State administrators and local NAACP leaders concluded a news conference on the arrest. The tape symbolized the complaint they brought to the stage: The school has not been listening to their concerns, and no one had invited them to take part in the news event.
"Last semester when we were protesting and requesting to meet with you, we were trying our hardest to let you know that something was terribly wrong with the experience that African-American students are having at San Jose State," said Gary Daniels, an SJSU student and chairman of the Black Unity Group, to school President Mo Qayoumi. "But you did not want to hear us."
The community will not stand idly by and allow for any student of color to be terrorized simply due to the color of his skin," said the Rev. Jethroe Moore II, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP.
Hate crimes may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Authorities said they consider such factors as the sophistication of the crime, the previous criminal records of the accused, the severity of their actions and the sentence a judge is likely to impose. In a statement issued Monday about the recent case, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said that if convicted of the misdemeanor hate crimes, the men could face double punishment for the crimes and court-ordered payments to agencies that serve victims of hate violence -- and to their former roommate, for counseling or other expenses.