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Jewish Groups Hail Verdict in Crown Heights Civil Trial

February 11, 1997
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Jewish groups are hailing the federal jury conviction of Lemrick Nelson Jr. in the killing of a Chasidic scholar during the Crown Heights riots in 1991.

They also called for greater racial tolerance.

Nelson, 21, had earlier been acquitted in state court of killing Yankel Rosenbaum, prompting demands for a federal inquiry which led to the new trial.

“We are thankful that finally justice has been served,” said Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, president of the Orthodox Union.

“Justice at last has been done,” echoed Howard Teich, president of the American Jewish Congress Metropolitan New York Region.

“Our common task in light of this verdict remains that of building a more racially tolerant community.”

The Anti-Defamation League also applauded the jury ruling. “Today’s decision puts an end to five years of injustice,” said an ADL statement. The riots “in which cries of `Kill the Jews’ rang through the streets of Brooklyn, resonated in the hearts of all of us.”

The convictions “begin to put closure on these events.”

The jury in the nationally publicized case, which included two Jews and three blacks, found Nelson guilty of violating Rosenbaum’s civil rights. He reportedly buried his head in his hands and wept when he heard the verdict.

A co-defendant, Charles Price, 43, was charged with aiding and abetting the civil rights violation by inciting mobs to exact revenge on Jews for the accidental death of a 7-year-old black boy by a Chasidic driver.

The incident sparked four days of rioting, and the most serious outbreak of ethnic violence in New York in years.

Both men could face life sentences, though that is unlikely. Their lawyers argued they had been framed and set up as scapegoats.

One of the lawyers for Norman Rosenbaum, the slain man’s brother, and for his family, joined the chorus of those welcoming the verdict.

“We are gratified at least a small measure of justice was done,” Roger Adler said.

“All Americans, not just Jewish Americans, owe a debt of gratitude” to the justice system, he added. “We hope the government’s efforts will continue to bring the others involved to justice.”

Adler was not alone in seeking more prosecutions.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha, issued a statement saying the verdict “was just the beginning.”

“There was an entire mob which surrounded him,” Weiss said, referring to Rosenbaum. “We will not be silent until all those responsible will be brought to justice.”

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