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Teenagers sentenced for Simi hate crime

One apologizes to victim in court

By Maria Gonzalez, mgonzalez@VenturaCountyStar.com

January 20, 2005 - The white teenager stood at his seat before the judge and turned on his shackled feet to face the black teen he'd beaten last month. "I'm sorry for what I did, and if you could forgive me ... " Kyle Lofton said, looking Jim King in the eye, his voice trailing off.

From behind the railing, King rose from his seat and balanced on his crutches. "I forgive you," he answered softly.

Lofton, 16, of Simi Valley was one of four teenagers accused in the Dec. 6 beating of King, 17, of Reseda. King was selling newspaper subscriptions at a Simi Valley shopping center at the time. He suffered cuts, bruises and a dislocated knee in the attack.

At a hearing Wednesday, Judge Brian Back ordered Lofton to serve nine months in juvenile detention for being the first of the four teens to attack King because of his race.

Back also ordered the Ventura County Star not to publish Lofton's last name, but the newspaper decided to do so citing Proposition 21, a state ballot measure passed in 2000 that, among other things, opened up some juvenile court proceedings to the public, including Wednesday's.

"The Star has decided to print the name because in addition to Proposition 21, the names of the juveniles have already been published in The Star and other news publications," said Joe Howry, The Star's editor and vice president. "The proceedings are open to the public. The names are included in a District Attorney's Office press release and are being published on the district attorney's Web site. They are clearly part of the public record, and The Star has every right to print those names."

At a separate hearing Wednesday, Chad Alvis, 16, of Simi Valley, was ordered to spend eight months in custody for his part in the attack. All four teens have admitted to assaulting King because of his race.

One of the remaining teens, Josh Ready, 15, of Simi Valley, will be sentenced in Ventura County Superior Court Jan. 31. The fourth, Patrick Rea, 17, of Granada Hills, will be sentenced in Los Angeles County later this month.

During the first sentencing, Stacy Ratner, the Ventura County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, spoke about the need for Alvis to learn from the crime. "This minor needs to understand the wrongfulness of his conduct ... to not continue to hate people," she said in court.

Deputy Public Defender James Harmon said Alvis would not learn the bigger lesson instantly, but that shedding an affinity for white supremacy would be a process. "Ultimately, the test is going to be when he completes the process," Harmon said.

While in custody, the teens will undergo counseling and get a historical understanding of hate, white supremacy and tolerance.

Each judge spoke at length on the disturbing nature of the attack. King and his family missed the first sentencing but made it to the second.

In the first hearing, Judge Alan Steele told Alvis he was on a "freeway" that would lead him straight to state prison if he didn't take the right exit. Steele described state prison as a place nobody ever wants to go to. "It's truly hell," he said. "You've got to get off this freeway."

During the second hearing, Back discussed the nature of hate, violence, adversity and the need for tolerance in society. "We are talking about issues that are far beyond the realm of this juvenile court," he said. Back said he was disturbed by comments Lofton made in his probation report, that if King was not "running his mouth off" he never would have hit him.

"I believe that there is a certain line and on one side is right and on the other side is wrong," Back said, calling the remark in the probation report wrong. After sentencing Lofton, Back finished with advice for him and King:

"This does not dictate the rest of what happens with your life," he said. "We have to figure out how to make the best of this ... grow from it and have some good come out of this."

Outside the courtroom, King smiled slightly as he recalled the exchange he had with the defendant. "It was kind of touching, seeing him eye to eye," King said, adding that he was struggling to move on after the attack. "Sometimes I try to get over it," he said. "But then it replays in my mind."


Security program spreads to Orlando

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY

5/30/2005 - Orlando International Airport is poised to become the newest site for the government's test program for letting trusted travelers zip through security checkpoints. And what happens there will go a long way in determining whether the program goes nationwide.

Eye scan: Some passengers check in at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport at a special scanner.

Wednesday, the Orlando airport authority will select a private vendor to sign up travelers, forward their names to the government for vetting and run biometric checkpoints. The program will start this summer. (Related: Flying through security)

The year-old Registered Traveler program has been open to just 10,000 people in a government-run test that eliminates security lines for applicants who pass a background check. So far, the program has been limited to customers of just a few airlines at five big airports in Boston, Houston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

But Orlando could pave the way for vast expansion if it shows the program works more efficiently under private-sector management. The Transportation Security Administration, though still not committed to a national program, wants to find the optimal business model for Registered Traveler.

"We've developed something that can be used at other airports," says Bill Jennings, the airport's executive director. Stephen Van Beek, policy director for the Airports Council International, says privately run Registered Traveler "definitely has potential for more growth." Companies, he said, will be more willing than the government to pay start-up costs.

The council has been clamoring for a nationwide program, along with the Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, and travelers groups such as the National Business Travel Association.

Registered travelers go through airport metal detectors and put their bags through X-ray machines. But they bypass security lines by checking in at a machine that establishes their identity through a biometric reading — an iris scan or a fingerprint, for example. Once authorized, they go through the checkpoint.

They're searched if an alarm sounds. But they are exempted from a second screening at the checkpoint that some other travelers get. TSA screeners conduct second searches of travelers picked at random or those who raise suspicion, for example, by buying a one-way ticket or paying cash.

Aviation security consultant Billie Vincent fears a terrorist with a clean background could sign up for Registered Traveler and bypass a thorough screening at the airport. The TSA stands by the safety of the program. Registered Traveler aims to minimize the attention given to passengers considered safe so security can focus on those who are unknown, TSA says.

 

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