Until the trial, the teens
LONG BEACH - A 21-year-old woman who had a dozen bones on one side of her face shattered during a Halloween attack testified in court Friday, recalling the beating in chilling detail.
The victim - who asked the Press-Telegram in previous interviews to be identified by only her first name, Loren, out of concern for her safety - was with two friends visiting a haunted house in Bixby Knolls when the three white women were attacked by a group of black youths.
She appeared composed and confident while on the witness stand. The only moment that revealed any nervousness came as she stood next to a diagram where she was asked to note her position and the position of her friends and the attackers at the time of the beating.
As Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bouas and several defense attorneys stopped for a brief discussion, Loren nervously capped and uncapped a red marker as she waited for the prosecutor's questions to resume.
Loren's mother said outside court that the 21-year-old victim was horribly nervous about testifying, having never done it before.
Her daughter is also struggling with her extensive injuries, she said. A team of doctors, including two surgeons, are trying to determine how best to treat her dizzy spells and her drooping eye.
Several of her teeth have died and will have to be replaced with a partial plate. No one yet knows if she will regain the sight partially lost in the one eye.
She is studying
photography, and her injuries forced her to drop all her college classes this year. Her injuries could destroy her dreams of pursuing a career as a professional photographer.
Loren was perhaps the most seriously hurt the night of the attack, which resulted in the arrest of 10 Long Beach youths - 9 girls and one boy, ages 12 to 19 - within moments of the 9:30 p.m. beating.
A few days later, police arrested two 17-year-old males, both from Long Beach. They have been charged with the same counts for which the 10 minors are currently being tried, or adjudicated as it is called in juvenile court.
The charge includes three felony counts of assault by any means of force to produce great bodily injury. Eight of the 10 minors currently in court had a hate crime enhancement added to their charges, and the two 17-year-old boys - whose adjudications are set for early January - also face the hate crime allegation.
All of the minors are black, and witness statements that the youths shouted racial slurs while beating the three victims have resulted in community and nationwide outrage.
Court proceedings so far have been slow, due in part to the difficulty of transporting the 10 minors to the Long Beach courthouse from various Los Angeles County juvenile detention centers....
....Loren described how she and her friends began the night at her house, where they dressed in their costumes - she as Betty Boop, her friend Michelle as a pirate and her friend Laura as a vampire.
They had decided to go see the haunted house, located on Linden Avenue at the corner of Bixby Road, while they were waiting for a fourth friend to get off work. That was when they were all going to go to a costume party, she said.
When she and her friends arrived at the haunted house, she said, a young black male - whom she estimated to be 17 to 19 years old - was standing with a group of youths and began hollering "Are you with it?" at her and her friends while grabbing his crotch.
After the victims made their way through the haunted house and returned to the front yard where they had started, she noticed the crowd had grown larger and included girls and boys.
"He said, `Are you with it?' again," Loren testified. "He was loud, he was yelling."
The crowd was also getting louder and more boisterous and the victims could hear other things, she said.
"I heard them (say) something about the white people and `white b---."' Loren testified.
She described trying to walk away and being pelted with pumpkins and lemons. She was hit in the back of the head and in her back. The force was strong enough to cause pain, she recalled.
She also recalled seeing one of her friends - Laura - get hit in the back and in the legs. That is when her friend turned around and told the crowd to stop.
As Laura turned back toward Loren and Michelle, she said, she saw at least two girls grab that friend by her long hair and her dress and yank her backward.
"I heard one voice say, `I f------ hate white people,"' Loren testified.
It was a male voice that shouted the statement, loud enough to be heard over the shouting crowd, she said.
At about the same time she said she heard male and female voices saying, "white b---," and the group surged toward Laura, partially surrounding her friend and cutting off her access to Michelle and Loren.
Loren recalled yelling to Michelle that they were getting separated. Michelle was shouting back that she was calling 911 as she dialed her cell phone.
The victim described, and was asked to demonstrate, how her friend was knocked to the ground. Loren then recalled seeing a young man flip a skateboard he had at his side up over his head.
"I saw him flip it up and swing in the direction of Laura," she testified, describing the suspect as black, tall and with a medium build, adding that he was big but not overweight.
His hair was close to his head, in either braids or corn rows, she added.
Loren said she rushed back to Laura but was quickly surrounded by a group of about a dozen people, mostly girls. They circled her in two rows, one inside the other, she described.
She first felt someone kick the back of her leg, just below her knee, and her leg buckled. But she did not fall, the victim testified.
Punches to her face and the back of her head rained down on her, with more than one person hitting her and most of them girls, she said.
She felt her left cheek pop from the force of one extremely strong blow and assumed it was from a male.
She said she ducked her face and flailed her arms, trying to stop her attackers, but they continued beating her.
"I could feel the rhythm of one-two ... getting punched in the back of the head and the face," she recalled.
She was eventually knocked to the ground when she tried to flip open her cell phone to call for help, and it was knocked out of her hand, she said.
Many of them were girls, she said. Some were wearing sweaters with the Rocawear logo, several had braids and some wore hoop earrings, Loren testified.
Rocawear is a popular line of clothing created by rapper Jay-Z.
Curled in a ball on her knees, Loren said she wrapped her arms over her head and kept her legs tucked under her body. She could feel people pounding her with their fists and kicking her, striking her on top of her head, around her face, her back and up and down her body, she said.
"Once I hit the ground, I remember being kicked by what I thought was a man," she testified. "Because the force was so hard, and when I looked up I thought I could see ... male legs."
At one point, she peered out from under her arm and said she could see one of her friends laying on the ground.
"She was being stepped on," she testified. "It looked like males."
It didn't stop until a black man ran up and began pulling people off her, Loren said. She recalled him yelling at the youths to stop.
She said a young black woman grabbed her under her arms and helped her stand up, taking her closer to where her friends were standing.
The woman screamed for ice for the victim's swollen and bloody face as neighbors began to come forward, Loren recalled.
"I was bleeding really bad and grabbing at my nose," she said.
The police arrived first, followed by paramedics. Not long afterward, officers told her that they had found some people who might have been involved and wanted to drive her to a nearby parking lot to see if she could identify those people.
The victims were taken in separate vehicles one at a time, Loren said. ...
...After a lengthy trial, nine teenagers - most of them girls - were convicted of assault, and Judge Lee found hate-crime enhancements
to be true against all but one of them.
Prosecutors then argued for all the youth to be sentenced to lock-down probation camps, but Lee noted that the minors had been in custody for long enough - nearly 100 days by the time the trial concluded.
He sentenced most to 60 days house arrest, probation and 250 community service hours, and he required them to attend a race tolerance program at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Two other minors later appeared before a different judge, pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement and were sentenced to camp.
Judge Lee's decision was derided by some in the community, particularly Barbara Schneider, the mother of one of the 19-year-old victims.
"He did a disservice not only to the victims and their families, but to those (attackers) and their families, and to the community," said Schneider, who circulated the petition to recall Judge Lee last year.
Schneider's daughter, Laura, was hit in the back of the head with a skateboard and knocked unconscious during the attack, which left another woman with severe eye and jaw injuries.
"These (attackers) have never been given consequences, and I feel like this has been perpetuated by that judge," she added. "I think he let everybody down."