- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — After three trials in 12 years, a black man was convicted yesterday in the stabbing death of a Jewish scholar in a 1991 riot in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

Lemrick Nelson, 27, was found guilty by a federal jury of violating the civil rights of Yankel Rosenbaum. Ruling on a separate question, the jury did not find that his actions resulted in Mr. Rosenbaum’s death.

As a result, he faces up to 10 years in prison, rather than a life sentence.

The verdict came a day after the jury told the judge it was hopelessly deadlocked. The jury deliberated for six days.

Nelson slumped in apparent relief after hearing the verdict.

During the 1990s, Nelson was acquitted of state murder charges and convicted of federal civil rights charges, a verdict that was overturned because the judge tampered with the racial makeup of the jury. The defense at those trials had insisted Nelson was not the killer.

This time, the defense did not deny Nelson stabbed Mr. Rosenbaum, 29, but said it had nothing to do with the fact that the victim was Jewish — a key element needed for a conviction.

Instead, the lawyers said Nelson, then 16, had been drinking beer all day and made a “horrible mistake” as he was swept up in the mob mentality.

Prosecutor Lauren Resnick countered that Mr. Rosenbaum was killed “not because of anything he’d done, but because of who he was — an Orthodox Jew.”

During six days of testimony, police witnesses said Nelson appeared sober when he was arrested.

One officer said Mr. Rosenbaum cursed and spit blood at Nelson while identifying him as his attacker. Another officer described searching the suspect’s pockets and finding a bloody knife that was linked to the victim through DNA.

The deliberations were not easy. The anonymous jurors repeatedly sought clarification on whether it could convict Nelson of civil rights violations if it concluded that he wasn’t the killer.

It seemed that case would end with a mistrial until the jurors — at the close of a tumultuous fifth day of deliberations — notified U.S. District Judge Frederic Block they wanted to resume working.

The riots began Aug. 19, 1991, after a Jewish driver accidentally struck two black children, killing 7-year-old Gavin Cato. Mr. Rosenbaum, a visiting scholar from Australia, was stabbed as a gang of blacks yelled, “Get the Jew.”

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