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.