Nine accused of mob attack on disabled teen

By David Abel
Globe Staff / May 12, 2010

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The seven of them stood behind the security glass in the defendants’ dock at Dorchester Municipal Court, wearing hoodies and sweatshirts, expressionless as a prosecutor described the accusation: The young men and two juveniles, whom authorities described as a mob of nine, were accused of beating and kicking a developmentally disabled teenager in broad daylight on a busy street in Dorchester.

They left him bloodied and screaming for help, the prosecutor said.

“A crime like this just shocks the conscience,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. “It’s obscene.’’ Each of the defendants denied having anything to do with the alleged attack, pleading not guilty yesterday as they were arraigned on charges of assaulting a disabled person. Some even suggested they had tried to help the victim, a 19-year-old from Mattapan whom they knew. He was treated on the scene for minor injuries.

A man who called police as he witnessed the incident shortly before 5 p.m. Monday on Parkman Street said he was working in his backyard when he heard a “God-awful scream.’’

“It appeared at first that five or six kids were walking away from the kid, who was lying on the street,’’ said the witness, who asked not to be identified because some of the defendants are his neighbors. “Then they all turned back, and several others came from across the street. They were kicking and punching him. It was terrible. He was screaming and crying.’’

The witness added that he watched at least seven cars pass by as the violence unfolded. “Not one of them even blew the horn,’’ he said. “It’s really sad. It’s like they didn’t want to get involved, but I understand. People get hurt for getting involved in this neighborhood.’’

In court yesterday, the defendants’ lawyers denied that their clients were involved.

The defendants, each accused of assault and battery and assault and battery on a retarded person, were identified as Jahsia Solomon, 17, of Roxbury and Trevon Campbell, 17; Johnny Clark Jr., 20; Dillon Copeland, 17; Markees Finklea-Sonlyen, 17; Stephen Goss, 18; and Aldane Hall, 21, all of Dorchester.

Two juveniles from Dorchester, ages 15 and 16, whose names were not released, were arraigned on similar charges in juvenile court.

The victim could not be reached for comment. The Globe is withholding his name because he is developmentally disabled.

The lawyers said none of the defendants have criminal records and described their clients as good kids.

“My client disputes the facts,’’ Darryl Malden, who represents Finklea-Sonlyen, said in court. “He was trying to help the individual up.’’

Jose Vincente, an attorney representing Campbell, said his client was standing across the street as the victim was attacked. He said his client could not explain how the violence began or why he did not try to stop it.

“All I know is that he stated he was not involved,’’ Vincente said in a telephone interview. “Unfortunately, the police just rounded up the usual suspects, and he got rounded up.’’

Emmet Folgert, executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, said he knows most of the defendants and questioned whether they were capable of such a crime. He said Clark, who has worked for him as a basketball coach for more than a year, has been suspended from the organization.

Folgert said that he had heard there was a fight between the younger boys and the victim and that some of the older defendants had sought to break it up.

“What I can say about Johnny [Clark] is that he’s very reliable, an excellent employee, and there hasn’t been any complaints about him,’’ Folgert said. “I think what will come out soon is that the facts are going to change.’’

Prosecutors said they could not explain how the brawl began. The “motive remains under investigation, though it’s hard to conceive of one that would justify a mob attack on a disabled person,’’ said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Officers who were first on the scene described the victim as “visibly upset, crying, and had shortness of breath . . . [with] redness all around his face and head,’’ according to the police report.

The victim, whom police described as “mentally challenged’’ or “of diminished mental capacity,’’ had a difficult time explaining what happened, but he got it across that he had been attacked, the officers wrote.

He told them that “the kids up the street had jumped him . . . [and] stated that he had known the suspects from the [Dorchester Youth Collaborative], and they did not like him,’’ according to the report.

Also according to the report, the witness told officers that he saw the victim “lying on the ground, trying to curl up while getting punched and kicked’’ by approximately 10 males ages 18 to 20.

The witness said they were “laying the boots to him’’ and identified each of the nine defendants as being involved in the attack, the report said.

Police seized a BB gun from the trunk of Hall’s car, which had been parked in the area near where the incident occurred.

At the arraignment, Judge Robert Baylor set bail at $500 cash for each adult defendant, half of what prosecutors had sought. Baylor also ordered them to stay away from one another and from the park where the alleged attack took place.

The 16-year-old juvenile also was held on $500 cash bail. The other juvenile was released to his mother, prosecutors said.

The adult defendants are scheduled to return to court June 3. The juveniles are to be back on May 24.

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