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Prosecutors: 3 attacked blacks because Obama won

  • Story Highlights
  • Investigators: Men rampaged in retaliation for Obama's election
  • Staten Island attackers put one man into a coma, according to prosecutors
  • Attackers shouted profanities about Obama, officials said
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three Staten Island men face charges of voting rights violations for targeting African-Americans for assault after Barack Obama's win in the November 4 presidential race, authorities said Wednesday.

A grand jury indicted Ralph Nicoletti, 18, Michael Contreras, 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, on charges of conspiracy to interfere with voting rights. All three pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

According to the indictment, the three "knowingly and intentionally" conspired to intimidate African-Americans "in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right ... and because of having so exercised that right, to wit, the right to vote."

Nicoletti and Carranza are white and Contreras is Latino. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said in court filings that the defendants were at a "makeshift outdoor clubhouse" in the Rosebank section of Staten Island when they learned of Obama's victory. At that point, prosecutors said, Nicoletti drove Contreras, Carranza and a fourth, unnamed and unindicted friend to the predominantly African-American Park Hill neighborhood in Staten Island.

Their purpose, prosecutors said, was to assault African-Americans because of Obama's win.

Their first victim, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, was 17-year-old Ali Kamara, whom they beat with a metal pipe and a collapsible police baton. Kamara escaped, suffering injuries to his head and legs, the prosecutors said.

Continuing to the Port Richmond section of Staten Island, the group assaulted a second African-American man, pushing him down, the federal prosecutors alleged. They then allegedly accosted a Latino man, demanding to know how he voted, and shouted profanities about Obama at a group of African-Americans at a hair salon.

Next, prosecutors said, Nicoletti swerved the vehicle to hit Ronald Forte, whom they mistakenly believed was black, shattering their windshield and landing him in the hospital in a coma. Forte is white.

According to Staten Island Real Time News (silive.com), Forte was in a coma for 45 days, returning to his family's home in New Jersey in mid-December, his mother, Eileen, said. She added that her son now has serious brain damage and motor control problems.

"He's not good. He's never going to be good," she said. "Every day I just see something different, and it's so scary."

U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell decried the attacks.

"Violence and intimidation aimed at interfering with the constitutional rights of every citizen, including the right to vote, will not be tolerated," he said in a written statement.

But, according to a filing with the U.S. Attorneys Office, the assaults didn't end there.

Nicoletti and three others approached Contreras three weeks ago at his house, believing he was cooperating with authorities, the filing says. They allegedly attacked him and called him a snitch, according to a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pamela Chen and Margo Brodie to the judge in the case.

The letter petitions for home confinement, drug testing and other pre-trial release conditions for Nicoletti and Carranza.

The judge has not responded to the request.

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