As you may know (or not), nine black teenagers were convicted of felony assault last month for the mob beating of three young white women. The crime occurred in an affluent neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif., on Halloween night. Eight of the nine teens convicted are girls.
Since November, this juvenile court proceeding, labeled the “Long Beach hate-crime trial,” got daily coverage in the Los Angeles Times and – more prominently and aggressively – in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Fascinating to me, as an observer of this coverage, was how slanted it was – both ways. The L.A. Times news stories were clearly sympathetic toward the black defendants. “If convicted, the youths could spend months, possibly years in custody, derailing plans for college and hopes of athletic stardom,” reporter Joe Mozingo wrote on January 11. (Several of the defendants are high-school track stars.) The Long Beach paper clearly sided with the white victims. “The assault, they said, was so savage they thank God they are alive,” Tracy Manzer reported on November 3.
Such was the polarizing nature of this crime.
Heck, certain individuals were polarized even within their own minds. Civil-rights activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson last November urged other black leaders to “vigorously denounce” black-on-white violence or be guilty of a double standard. But by trial’s end, Mr. Hutchinson concluded that the prosecution hadn’t proved its case against these black youngsters, so “justice demands acquittal.”
As much as the judge’s findings of guilt brought joy and relief to the white victims and their families, his light sentences pissed them the hell off. With more sentences to be announced this week, the judge last Friday released four of the convicted kids on probation and “home detention.” It was the first time they’d been home since Halloween night, when they got arrested in a parking lot near the assault scene.
I’m not interested in rehashing the particulars of the Long Beach Halloween attack here, though the case did have some twists and turns. Nor do I feel passionately about the verdict or the sentencing; I bow to the judge’s judgment.
I want to talk about MySpace.
For true-crime junkies, this social-networking website provides an entertaining play-at-home diversion whenever high-profile crimes go down. Not to rain on Tony Dungy’s parade, but remember when his son committed suicide? And people all over the Internet, with ghoulish glee, posted links to the son’s MySpace page? And dude looked all thugged out?
I played this game myself when John Mark Karr was publicly linked to the JonBenet Ramsey murder. Within minutes of Karr’s name being revealed on CNN, I located the MySpace page of his oldest teenage son, John Mark Karr II, a heavy-metal enthusiast in Petaluma, Calif. Within an hour, the kid had taken his page down… no doubt because of asshole crime voyeurs like me.
(By the way, the MySpace pages of John Mark Karr II and another of Karr’s sons, Seven Exodus Karr, are still up and running. Glad to see they dodged a bullet on that whole sadistic-pedophile-murderer-dad thing and they’re back to being normal teenagers.)
In the Long Beach beating case, MySpace actually became part of the testimony. The only defendant to take the witness stand – and the only male on trial – was Anthony Ross, now 18 years old. The prosecutor asked him about the title of his MySpace page, “I dOnT CaRe Im cUtE As FuCC!!!!”:
“You didn’t put the ‘ck’ because if you said ‘ck’ it would mean ‘Crip Killer,’ ” the prosecutor said. “Because Crips don’t write ‘ck,’ right?”
“Ross smiled,” according to the L.A. Times, “and the defense attorneys objected before he could answer.”
All along, the district attorney has portrayed these black kids as gang-connected, while their families insist they’re good students from good homes and none of them had a criminal record.
It may have been a stretch to try to label Anthony Ross a Crip because of how he spells the word “fuck.” But after browsing through Anthony’s MySpace page – and the pages of two female defendants and their mutual friends – let me just say… well, it ain’t all “Cosby kids” up in there.
On November 12, a guy calling himself “1 OF RANCHOS MOST WANTED” posted this message on one accused girl's MySpace page:
“... I DONT EVEN KNO WUT HAPPEND AND IT DOESNT MATTER I NEVER WANNA SEE U LOCCED UP CUZ I BEEN THERE BEFORE AND ITS NOT DA BIZ BUT TO MAKE SHIT SHORT U KNO WUT IT IZ IM PRAYIN 4 U AND KEEP YA HEAD UP EVERYTHIN GONE BE GOOD”
And one 20-year-old male, registered on MySpace as “slimjay_tha_pimp,” changed his page name to “FUCK Long Beach P.D Free Sade & B da Be.” His page offers this message of solidarity: “FREE SADE AND BRITTANY ‘B DA BE’ MISS YALL 2!!! FUCK LONG BEACH POLICE AND THAT WHITE BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (I believe that’s a reference to the one assault victim who testified in the case.)
Then there’s a 21-year-old female with a MySpace page titled “FUCC LONG B3ACH P.D. ‘FREE SHADEEZY & B-W33ZY&.”
In an essay titled “EVERYONE THAT KNOWS SADE AND BDB THIS IS 4 YOU!!!,” dated January 7, she issued the following critique of the criminal justice system:
“!!!FIRST OFF I WANNA SAY FUCC LONG BEACH POLICE...YEAH I SAID FUCC YALL CRUCCETT ASS MUTHAFUCCAS... AND FUCC THAT 1 WHITE BITCH THATS LYIN HER ASS OFF ON THE GOT DAM COURT STAND....
“ALL OF DAY-DAY AND B-WEEZY FRIENDS, I JUST WANNA LET YALL KNOW THAT THEY DOING OK AND THEY HOLDIN IT DOWN VERY WELL OVER AN INCIDENT THEY WAS CAUGHT UP IN.. THIS SHIT BASICALLY WAS ‘A WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME MOMENT.’ JUST TO LET YALL KNOW CUZ I KNOW A LOT OF YALL IS WONDERING WHAT THE FUCC GOING ON THIS BANANAS... AND YEAH THIS SHIT IS... HOW CAN 2 OF THE HOMIES THAT AINT TROUBLE GET CAUGHT UP IN TROUBLE... EXCUSE MY LANGUAGE BUT THIS WHOLE INCIDENT GOT ME FUCCED UP CUZ BOTH OF MY SISTERS BEEN GONE 2 LONG...”
She proceeded to recapitulate the key events of Halloween night, while highlighting what she perceives to be flaws in the district attorney’s case:
“3 WHITE GIRLS SUPPOSELEY GOT BEAT UP BY A GROUP OF 20-40 BLACK MALE AND FEMALES... AND WHAT THE MUTHAFUCCN POLICE WAS LOOKING 4 2 RED VEHICLES... WHICH ONE WAS MY SISTER CAR GOT PULLED OVER WITH 5 GIRLS IN THE CAR AND FOUND THE OTHER RED VEHICLE NEXT 2 HERS WITH ANOTHER 5 IN THE CAR SO THAT MAKE 10; SO WHERES THE OTHER 20 SUSPECTS? THE WHITE BITCH AND THIS FAKE ASS WITNESS CAN ONLY IDENTIFY THE 10 SUSPECTS BUT ONLY BY WHAT THEY HAD ON... THATS NOT A REAL I.D. COME ON NOW... BUT YEAH JUST TO LET YALL KNOW THAT THE D.A. IS A REAL BITCH YEAH I SAID I HOPE SHE READING THIS 2... BUT SHE REALLY TRYNNA PROSECUTE SOMEBODY.. BUT JUST TO LET YALL KNOW DAYDAY HASNT BEEN I.D. NOR BDB.. BUT THAT 1 WHITE BITCH TRYNNA SAY THAT BDB KICCED HER IN HER KNEE WHICH IS A FUCCN LIE..BUT ITS ALL GONE GET DROPPED AT THE END CUZ THEY TRYNNA PUT TOGETHER SOME SHIT THATS SO FUCCN FOWL AND TACCI AND EACH AND EVERY WITTNESS THAT BROUGHT THEY ASS UP ON THAT STAND DONE LIED SO... YALL DONT TRIP THEY’LL BE HOME SOON... AITE YALL IF YOU WANNA KNOW ANY MO’ SHIT HOLLA AT ME.. FUCC LONG BEACH CUH ON MY MOMMA...”
Words to ponder.
Goodness gracious… how ’bout locking this chick up for assaulting the English language! Am I right, people?
Anyways, next time some shit goes down and it’s all over the cable news channels – especially if it involves someone under the age of 25 – just jump on MySpace and maybe you’ll find a hidden window on the story… your own little peephole into somebody else’s pain.