- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

YORK, Pa. (AP) Four white men pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges yesterday in the shooting death of a black woman during the city's 1969 race riots.
The four were among 10 persons, including former York Mayor Charlie Robertson, who were charged with murder in the killing of Lillie Belle Allen on July 21, 1969. Mr. Robertson, a city police officer at the time of the riots, is the only suspect who has not been accused of shooting at the victim.
In exchange for their pleas on murder conspiracy charges, murder charges were dropped against Rick Knouse, Clarence Lutzsinger, William Ritter and Tom Smith. Judge John C. Uhler said he would have to review their pre-sentencing reports before formally accepting the pleas.
"The most important thing has been to get the shooter and those most culpable," in Miss Allen's death, York County prosecutor Tom Kelley said.
Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Sept. 23 for the nine suspects arrested last year, who were to be tried together. A 10th suspect was charged in July.
Mr. Robertson's attorney, William Costopoulos, said he still expected the former mayor to go to trial.
"They're doing what they have to do. They're probably getting sweetheart deals, and I understand it," Mr. Costopoulos said. "I don't care how many plead out. I don't feel threatened by it. I'm trying this case Sept. 23rd."
Mr. Robertson was charged while he was serving as mayor of the city of 41,000, located about 80 miles west of Philadelphia. He has denied accusations that he handed out ammunition on the day of Miss Allen's killing and told members of white gangs to shoot as many blacks as they could.
The former mayor has acknowledged yelling "white power" at a rally the night before Miss Allen was killed, but says he had no involvement in the killing. He has also said he no longer has racist attitudes.
In court, Mr. Smith admitted serving as a lookout, while the other three said they shot at Miss Allen's car.
Mr. Knouse and Mr. Lutzsinger said members of the police force had provided support to the gangs involved in the shooting, and Mr. Knouse said he shot at Miss Allen's car using a bullet Mr. Robertson had given to him. Mr. Lutzsinger said gang members felt the police had given them license to arm themselves.
"The cops told us it was OK to protect our neighborhoods. They were behind us," Mr. Lutzsinger said.
The riots began after a white gang member shot and injured a black man. Fights broke out, buildings were set ablaze and police barricaded black neighborhoods. More than 60 people were injured and 100 arrested before the National Guard rolled into town with tanks.
Miss Allen, 27, and family members were in a car that had strayed into the neighborhood of a white gang during one night of rioting, authorities said.

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