WASHINGTON - Ralph Nicoletti pleaded guilty in Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court
today before U.S. District Judge Carol B. Amon to committing three assaults
targeting African-American residents in Staten Island, N.Y., on the night of
President Barack Obama’s election victory. Nicoletti was the last of four
defendants to plead guilty in the federal prosecution stemming from the attacks.
The other three defendants – Bryan Garaventa, Michael Contreras and Brian
Carranza – previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit the hate crime
assaults and each face sentences of up to 10 years in prison. As part of his
plea, Nicoletti has agreed to a sentence of 12 years, subject to the court’s
At the plea proceeding, Nicoletti admitted that on Nov. 4, 2008, the night of
the presidential election, the defendants decided to assault African-Americans
in Staten Island after President Obama was declared the winner of the election.
The defendants targeted African-Americans believing that they had voted for
President Obama. Nicoletti drove the group to the Park Hill section of Staten
Island, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, where they came upon an
African-American teenager and assaulted him. Nicoletti struck the teenager with
a metal pipe and Garaventa hit him with a collapsible police baton.
Nicoletti then drove to the Port Richmond section of Staten Island, where the
defendants assaulted an unidentified African-American man. During that assault,
Garaventa tripped the victim and pushed him to the ground.
The third assault was against an individual whom the defendants mistakenly
believed was African-American. The plan was for Contreras to hit the victim with
the police baton as the defendants drove by him. Instead, Nicoletti deliberately
drove his car into the victim’s body. The victim was thrown onto the hood of the
car and hit the front windshield, smashing it. The victim was seriously injured
and remained in a coma for several weeks after the attack.
"This successful prosecution sends a clear message that racially-motivated
acts of violence targeted at those who are exercising their right to vote are
intolerable and will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted," said Acting
Assistant Attorney General King. "It is a tragedy that these crimes occur at
all, but the Department of Justice will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat
hate crimes, as they tear at the very fabric of our great nation."
"The conduct of the defendants is shocking and deplorable," stated U.S.
Attorney Campbell. "On a night of historic significance, these four angry men
assaulted their victims in an attempt to punish them for exercising a
fundamental right of all Americans – the right to vote. Those who commit such
crimes will be swiftly apprehended, prosecuted and punished. We are grateful for
our partnership with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI
and the New York City Police Department, which has been vital to the success of
this case, and I particularly wish to thank the Richmond County District
Attorney’s Office for its assistance in this matter."
"The crimes these defendants have now admitted to were violent assaults that
in one case nearly killed a man," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Demarest
of the New York Field Office. "In attempting to intimidate voters, the
defendants also violated the victims’ civil rights in a way that was an attack
on the democratic process. These were serious crimes that prompted the serious
response the FBI will always bring to bear in civil rights enforcement."
"It was important to make certain that those who seriously injured
individuals, based on their race, did not escape justice," said Police
Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "NYPD Inspector Michael J. Osgood, Commanding
Officer of the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force, had the foresight to assign a special
team on Election Night until 4 a.m. the next morning. As a result, his
investigators were in position to respond quickly to the bias attacks as reports
of them began to emerge. Detectives located an eyewitness to one of the
attacks, and their subsequent distribution of flyers in the Rosebank area of
Staten Island over three days led to the first major break in the case."
POST YOUR COMMENTS BELOW