WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced that four men who committed three hate crime assaults in response to President Barack Obama’s election victory were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Carol B. Amon in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ralph Nicoletti, 19, was sentenced to 108 months in prison; Bryan Garaventa, 18, was sentenced to 60 months; Michael Contreras, 19, was sentenced to 55 months; and Brian Carranza, 21, was sentenced to 70 months.
On Nov. 4, 2008, following the announcement of President Obama’s victory in the presidential election, the defendants set out to assault African-Americans in Staten Island, N.Y, because they believed the victims had voted for the President. Nicoletti drove the group to the Park Hill section of Staten Island, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, where they encountered 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, knocking 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.
"It is appalling that such hateful acts of racially motivated violence continue to persist in our nation. These sentences should remind those inspired to violence by hate that they will be brought to justice," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division. "We applaud the prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that participated in this investigation and prosecution. The Civil Rights Division will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat hate crimes that tear at the very fabric of our great nation and seek to undermine the progress we’ve made in advancing civil rights for all."
"The significant sentences imposed by the court reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ shocking and deplorable conduct," stated Benton J. Campbell, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "These sentences send a clear message that those who engage in racially motivated violence that seeks to deprive individuals of their fundamental right to vote will be punished. We are grateful for our partnership with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the New York City Police Department in this matter, and I also wish to thank the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance."
"By their own admission these defendants, motivated by racial hatred and a desire to punish those they believed had voted for Barack Obama, participated in violent attacks that nearly killed one of their victims,"said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph M. Demarest Jr. of the New York Field Office. "Free exercise of the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and a fundamental civil right that the FBI will always safeguard vigorously."
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Counsel Kristy L. Parker and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pamela K. Chen and Margo K. Brodie for the Eastern District of New York.