Crown Heights Riot Suspect Sentenced

NEW YORK (AP) — A man involved in the racially charged Crown Heights riots was sentenced to more than 11 years in jail for violating the civil rights of a rabbinical student who was stabbed to death.

Charles Price, one of the two black men at the center of the 1991 riots, pleaded guilty Friday to violating Yankel Rosenbaum's civil rights.

Price, 48, has already served nearly half of the 11-year, 8-month sentence handed down Friday.

Price's original conviction and sentence of nearly 22 years in jail were thrown out by an appeals court three months ago.

He appeared relieved as he read a statement in court, his first public comments about a night that shook race relations in New York.

``On Aug. 19, 1991, I spoke to members of a crowd to follow me,'' Price told U.S. District Court Judge David Trager. ``I told them it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.''

He also offered an apology for the violence.

``In my heart, I have never been a racist,'' he said. ``I feel very sorry for all the people who were hurt or died that night.''

Norman Rosenbaum, whose 29-year-old brother was killed in the violence, said he did not believe Price was sincere.

``I didn't hear 'I regret,' I didn't hear the words 'I'm sorry,' I didn't hear one iota of remorse,'' Rosenbaum said outside the courthouse. ``All of it was a factual recitation, which I have no doubt was written by his lawyers in order to satisfy the bare minimum required by the court in order to accept the plea of guilty. It's not good enough.''

The case began in 1991 when a black 7-year-old, Gavin Cato, was struck and killed by a Jewish driver from the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community centered in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Hours later, a gang of blacks shouting ``Get the Jew!'' chased down and fatally stabbed Rosenbaum. The violence over the next two days — including 188 injured and angry crowds breaking windows, shouting ``Heil Hitler!'' and burning the Israeli flag — shook the city and drew international attention.

Lemrick Nelson Jr., then 16, was charged with killing Rosenbaum. A state jury acquitted him, but he was convicted in a federal trial with violating Rosenbaum's civil rights.

Nelson was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison. Price, who was videotaped provoking the rioters, was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months. A grand jury declined to charge the driver, Yosef Lifsh.

In January, a 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ordered a new trial for Price and Nelson. The appeals court said Trager manipulated the makeup of the jury in an effort to achieve a racially and religiously balanced jury.

Price's attorney, Darrell Paster, said his client decided to plead guilty Thursday night. ``He just wanted closure,'' Paster said. ``He wanted certainty.''

U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad said the plea deal was a ``fair and just'' resolution of the case.

``After years of denials, this defendant has at long last admitted that he was responsible for precipitating the attack on Yankel Rosenbaum ... bringing about his death,'' Vinegrad said.

The federal case against Nelson, 27, is pending.


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