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Justice Department Appeals Ruling on Crown Heights Case


The U.S. Justice Department has appealed a federal court decision to try Lemrick Nelson Jr. as a juvenile.

The Justice Department filed the appeal May 12, the last day possible, according to Norman Rosenbaum, the brother of Yankel Rosenbaum.

Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian Jew, had been living in Crown Heights and researching Jewish history. He was killed the first night of the August 1991 riots in Crown Heights.

On Oct. 30, 1992, Nelson, who had been charged with the scholar’s murder, was found not guilty.

Now, Nelson will be tried again, this time in federal court, in connection with the violation of Rosenbaum’s civil rights in a bias attack.

But the recent decision by a judge to try Nelson as a juvenile in the civil rights case prompted outrage among those who want to see Rosenbaum’s murderers brought to justice.

Nelson was 16 at the time of the attack. He is now 20.

If tried as a juvenile and found guilty of violating Rosenbaum’s civil rights, Nelson would get a maximum of five years in a juvenile detention center. If tried and convicted as an adult, he could get a maximum sentence of life in prison, said Norman Rosenbaum, who has been lobbying lawmakers at every level of government, seeking justice for his brother’s killers.

None of the other participants in the 1991 attack, which may have been as many as 29, has been apprehended.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation.

And Rosenbaum, along with the Crown Heights Jewish community, are still deposing potential witnesses in their class action civil suit against the city. The suit claims that the city did not do enough to protect Crown Heights’ Jews from the African Americans and Caribbean Americans who participated in the riots.

The lawsuit is not expected to come to trial in the near future, Rosenbaum said.

The Anti-Defamation League and Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R.-N.Y.) were among those who welcomed news of the Justice Department’s appeal.

“There are few crimes as heinous as the crime committed against Yankel Rosenbaum,” said D’Amato in a statement, claiming it was wrong to protect Nelson behind a juvenile defense.

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