A judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Wednesday set a trial date for three former San Jose State University students in a hate crime case, which a defense attorney says has become "political."
Judge Lori Pegg set Dec. 1 as the date for a trial on charges of misdemeanor battery charges with a hate crime enhancement against Logan Beaschler of Bakersfield, Joseph Bomgardner of Clovis and Colin Warren of Woodacre.
The one-time freshman students, who are white, allegedly taunted a black roommate at a dormitory at SJSU last fall, called him "three-fifths" and "fraction," hung up a Confederate flag and injured him slightly after putting a bike lock over his neck, according to prosecutors.
Another white student was charged as a juvenile and his name has not been released. The other three were 18 at the time they were charged.
The case caused a furor at the SJSU campus, prompting protest rallies and an investigation ordered by the university's president.
It also led state officials to permanently expel Beaschler, Bomgardner and Warren from all the University of California and California State University system colleges.
The alleged victim, 18-year-old Donald Williams, Jr., hired a lawyer who in March filed a $5 million damage claim against SJSU.
But Beaschler's attorney Chuck Mesirow said that the case has become "a political one" with media coverage affecting people's emotions and the District Attorney's office "hard pressed" to drop it.
Mesirow said he tried hard to settle the misdemeanor case with prosecutors, but that because it involved an alleged hate crime "it's become an issue bigger than the case itself."
"No one really wants a trial," he said. "It's not the kind of hate crime that I've seen. It's a simple misdemeanor battery that has become the trial of the century, and it's ridiculous."
He admitted that his client acted in "stupid and childish" manner with the black student at the dormitory.
However, the ramifications from it, such as Beaschler's expulsion, already have permanently affected his client's future because his family cannot afford to send him to an out-of-state college.
The trial once it starts Dec. 1 could last a "couple of weeks," Mesirow said.
His defense of Beaschler would involve "a line of character witnesses," including former a former high school teacher and some SJSU students who will testify about Beaschler's character, Mesirow said.
"I don't think that anyone believes he is a racist," he said.