Three students charged in a high-profile 2013 hate crime case at San Jose State University, where an African-American freshman had a bike lock put around his neck, were found guilty of misdemeanor battery Monday but escaped conviction on hate crime allegations.
The defendants in the case, Colin Warren of Woodacre and Logan Beaschler of Bakersfield, now 20, and Joseph "Brett" Bomgardner, 21, of Clovis were charged in varying degrees to allegedly subjecting Donald Williams Jr., who was 17, to repeated bullying that prosecutors say rose to the level of a hate crime during the fall of 2013.
All three were convicted Monday by a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury of misdemeanor battery.
However, Bomgardner was found not guilty of misdemeanor commission of a hate crime by use of force and Judge Thang Barrett declared a mistrial on similar hate crime allegations against Beaschler and Warren after the jury deadlocked on those charges. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office says it will consider asking for a retrial on the hate crime charges.
The alleged bullying included putting a U-shaped bike lock around Williams' neck and refused to give him the key before finally setting him free, trying to lock him in a closet and displaying a Confederate flag in their shared suite. Prosecutors claimed the defendants also called him "three-fifths" and "fraction," referring to to the fraction the U.S. Census used to count black slaves in the South in the 18th and early 19th centuries for the purpose of representation in Congress.
"This violence did not happen in a historical vacuum," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Monday. "This violent act was done to a young black college student by five white men, an injustice inflicted upon him because of the color of his skin."
Bomgardner's attorney Sam Polverino said Monday he was "hesitant" to comment because “there's a $5 million lawsuit pending against my client, the others, and the university."
Defense attorneys had argued their clients were simply playing an immature prank.
"Prejudice is not a prank," Rosen said. "Today’s decision was partially disappointing, but not dispiriting. Our resolve to fight hate crimes remains unwavering."
Sentencing has been set for March 14. The three could face up to six months in jail.
A fourth student has been charged as a juvenile in the case, prosecutors said. More information on the status of the juvenile's case was not immediately available.
"All four students who engaged in these acts are no longer enrolled at SJSU," interim president Sue Martin said in a statement. "The victim and his family are pursuing civil remedies independent of the criminal actions.
"Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community," Smith said, adding that the university plans to hire a chief diversity officer and stage open forums with campus community members to "discuss results of the most recent campus climate survey."
NBC Bay Area's Scott Budman and Bay City News contributed to this report.