Battery, But No Hate Crime Convictions in SJSU Bullying Trial

A jury found three former San Jose State University students guilty of battery—but not hate crimes—in a high-profile bullying case of a black student.

Joseph Bomgardner, Logan Beaschler and Colin Warren face up to six months in jail for clamping a bike lock around their roommate’s neck. All pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their sentencing date comes March 14.

The jury—comprising six men, six women and no African Americans—cleared 21-year-old Bomgardner of a misdemeanor hate crime, but deadlocked on whether the other two, both 20, were guilty of the charge.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett declared a mistrial on those counts. A fourth student, who was a minor at the time the harassment occurred, was adjudicated in juvenile court.

The three accused white students began pranking their freshman roommate, then-17-year-old Donald Williams Jr., almost as soon as the school year started in fall of 2013. According to police reports, Williams—who is black—became the only target.

One of the roommates snuck up behind Williams and clasped a U-shaped bike lock around his neck.  The next week, those three roommates tried the stunt again, but Williams dodged the attempt.

While the bike lock wasn’t used again, Williams said he continued to experience racial harassment. His roommates tacked up a Confederate flag in the common room, penned a racist slur on a dry erase board and wrote a snarky letter citing the “Beloved Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.”

They reportedly called Williams “Three-Fifths” and “Fraction,” referring to how the Constitution counted black slaves for state representation in Congress.

The District Attorney’s Office will decide whether to seek a new trial on the hate crime charges.

News of the bullying put San Jose State in the national spotlight. Protests erupted. The school formed a task force led by retired judge and then-Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell to review the case. The citizen commission issued dozens of recommendations to prevent similar harassment from happening again.

SJSU interim President Sue Martin said plans are underway to host a discussion about race relations on campus. The school is also hiring a chief diversity officer.

“Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community,” she said in a statement.

Williams has filed a $5 million claim against three of his bullies as well as his alma mater. The lawsuit alleges that the school overlooked clear signs of abuse and failed to find him safe on-campus housing.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

7 Comments

  1. NIce to see this post reappearing – as when I checked hours earlier it appeared to have been deleted – but what happened to the first two comments that were here yesterday? Neither of which should have been considered deletable given some of the stunningly cruel, I’ve got mine, comments which seem to be daily fare here?

    At any rate, I took a screen shot of those comments for a freind, so I know they once existed.

  2. Wow, what happened to this story? I posted the comment below to the original piece just before it was pulled. Now it’s back with no mention of the mayor’s comments. Were the statements attributed to him in the original inaccurate or did SJI cave to pressure?

    —-

    This case is custom-made for race-peddlers and other political worms because any would-be critic of the prosecutor’s hate crime frenzy is confronted with the challenge of keeping his argument from being instantly crushed under the enormity of the defendants’ stupidity. Because stupidity, even in its most innocent incarnation, can deserve no more than to be put it its proper context ; it can never be defended. Thus the path to a reasonable and objective viewpoint can be easily mined by those who care nothing about the truth.

    Before even considering the actions of the young men involved in this case, I ask that you consider how much of this story’s context has nothing to do with them. The DA, the county’s allegedly objective prosecutor, is said to have noted that this case did not happen in an historical or societal vacuum. Interesting perspective, but has anyone ever heard him express it when an armed black man robs a Pakistani shopkeeper, or a drunk illegal alien runs down a white jogger? How about when a neighborhood is terrorized by a Hispanic street gang, or black drug dealers shoot it out over a coveted corner? All of these things are far more historically and socially common to this area than are any other kinds of criminal or anti-social behavior, yet in matters such as these the politically ambitious, self-serving DA appears to be both colorblind and speechless.

    As for the “campus climate,” it is absurd to allow such a self-serving and unverifiable allegation sully the rights of these young men to fair treatment. To even include the statistic about the percentage of African-Americans in the conversation about this case is irresponsible. Have the school leaders decided it is now appropriate to make every incoming white student vulnerable to penalty enhancements based on the university’s demographics?

    DA Rosen has awarded the victim his complete admiration and respect, but I wonder if this appreciation is based on the victim’s ability to take abuse in heavy enough doses, and for a long enough period of time, so that Mr. Rosen could justify making a case of hate out of a truckload of freshman stupidity and weakness. I can’t wait to vote for his next political opponent, no matter who it is.

    Years ago, before political scumbags robbed me of my compassion, I rescued a freshman student who’d been left naked and cold by his fraternity brothers. He was miles from the frat house, obliged to avoid arrest and find his way back. He was African-American, but it never occurred to me to even question him about the race or motives of the young men responsible for his predicament. I knew everything I needed to know about them. They were young and they were stupid. But they weren’t criminals.

  3. We were having some issues with our website this week. A couple articles disappeared last night and we had to re-post them this morning.

    • Yesterday about this time of the evening I logged on and every thread I sought to open came up completely empty, with a notice that the thread might have been moved. At least three of my posts disappeared and still have not been returned. Whoever did your cleanup or whatever it was just plain messed up the site.

  4. whoa, I came back to revisit any responses to my prior comment on 02/23/16 and find that the entire post had disappeared and been reposted under a new url, without its initial comments being retrieved.

    My initial comment, now disappeared, was comment number 1632950; it was the second comment underneath voice of reason’s first (now disappeared) comment.

    My comment read as follows (I usually keep a copy and screen picture of my comments so I can verify what I’ve stated):

    anyone surprised at this travesty? Silicon Valley likely has the lowest populations (and still dwindling), compared to the National Averages, of those most oppressed: the dark skinned, born here legal citizens; single females; the elderly; the trades skilled (e.g. plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, et al, who are not willing to gouge their customers); and all unemployed, though skilled, over 35 (for females)/40 (for males), sans retirement age; than any other large metro area in the country. A Feature, not a Bug.

    Oh, but wait, let’s all aspire to this:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cbw_bXzWAAIt_ap.jpg:small

    any one see any: darker skinned; females; elders; or tradesman there?

    yeah, didn’t think so.