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Jewish Groups Express Deep Dismay at Acquittal in Crown Heights Case

Jewish organizations have expressed deep disappointment with a jury verdict Thursday that cleared a black teen-ager of all charges in the murder of Hasidic scholar Yankel Rosenbaum during the rioting that tore through the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in August 1991.

The 12-person State Supreme Court jury acquitted Lemrick Nelson Jr., 17, of all four charges: second-degree murder, depraved indifference, first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.

“Today is a sad day in the history of New York,” said Judah Gribetz, president of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council.

“Those responsible for the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum continue to walk the streets. Their freedom is a blot on the record of our system of justice and an insult to all law-abiding citizens of New York.”

The Anti-Defamation League also expressed dismay at the jury’s verdict, calling on authorities to continue pursuing the case to bring those responsible to justice.

“In light of the overwhelming weight of evidence, we find the verdict difficult to comprehend,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, and Pam Schafler, chair of ADL’s New York regional board. “This verdict must not preclude further local and federal action against the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” they said in a statement.

They called on Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to “vigorously continue the investigation to identify and bring to justice those in the mob that attacked and murdered Yankel Rosenbaum, and at the same time for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a violation of Rosenbaum’s civil rights.”

Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Lubavitcher Hasid visiting Crown Heights from Australia, was stabbed to death during the riots that erupted after a car driven by aides to the Lubavitcher rebbe struck and killed a 7-year-old black child named Gavin Cato.

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