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3 Charged in San Jose State Univ. Hate Crime

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on November 22, 2013 11:55 AM

Learning how to live with your college roommates is a common struggle, especially during your first year. But for one freshman at San Jose State University, the experience entailed an unbearable series of alleged hate crimes including Nazi symbols and the "N-word."

The roommates from hell -- Logan Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield; Joseph Bomgardner, 19, of Clovis; and Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre (Marin County) -- have been charged with misdemeanor hate-crime and battery for their racially motivated hazing, reports CNN.

"Three-Fifths"

The alleged harassment began when the victim (a freshman) and seven other young white men -- all assigned to live together -- moved into the four-bedroom, on-campus dormitory suite. The white roommates nicknamed him "Three-fifths" and "Fraction," referring to the way the government once counted blacks as just a fraction of a person, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

They allegedly decorated the suite a Confederate flag, regularly locked him in his room, and wrote the "N-word" on a communal dry-erase board. Investigators also found Nazi symbols in the apartment, including a picture of Adolf Hitler, the "SS" lightning bolt symbol, and a swastika.

Hate Crime

Hate crimes are criminal actions intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of his or her actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

The young men acknowledged during police interviews that they incessantly harassed the then-17-year-old, but downplayed the incidents as non-racist "pranks" and "jokes," reports the Mercury News.

University police, however, recommended that District Attorney Jeff Rosen file the case as a hate crime -- and for good reason. Placing signs -- including but not limited to Nazi swastikas -- on private property to terrorize an occupant is a misdemeanor in California. Here, the Confederate flag, "N-word" message, and Nazi symbols would almost certainly suffice.

Considering the young man was the only minority in the group and the only one targeted, the "prank" theory isn't looking good for the roommates.

Battery

The men are also facing misdemeanor battery charges with a hate-crime enhancement. The charge likely stemmed from the occasion the defendants allegedly fastened a bicycle u-lock around the victim's neck and told him they lost the keys, then tried again a few weeks later.

In California, actions that are normally misdemeanors can become felonies if committed due to bigotry towards a victim's protected characteristic -- in this case, race.

Currently, the roommates are suspended. But that's the least of their worries. They could face penalties ranging from probation to a year in jail if convicted.

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