News and Press Releases

Four Defendants Sentenced for Racially Motivated Election Night Assaults

September 10, 2009

Ralph Nicoletti, Bryan Garaventa, Michael Contreras, and Brian Carranza Sentenced for Assaults Targeting African-Americans in Staten Island after President Obama’s Election Victory

Four defendants – Ralph Nicoletti, Bryan Garaventa, Michael Contreras, and Brian Carranza – were sentenced today by United States District Judge Carol B. Amon in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, based on their guilty pleas to conspiring to commit and committing three racially motivated assaults in Staten Island, New York, on the night of the 2008 presidential election in retaliation for President Barack Obama’s victory. Nicoletti was sentenced to 108 months’ imprisonment; Garaventa was sentenced to 60 months; Contreras was sentenced to 55 months; and Carranza was sentenced to 70 months. Each defendant was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.

The sentences were announced by Benton J. Campbell, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

As alleged in court filings and as admitted by the defendants during their plea proceedings, on November 4, 2008, the night of the presidential election, the defendants agreed to assault African-Americans in Staten Island after President Obama was declared the winner. 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 Ali Kamara, an African-American teenager, and assaulted him with a metal pipe and a 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 Ronald Forte, whom the defendants mistakenly believed was African-American. During that assault, Nicoletti hit Forte with his car. Forte was in a coma for several weeks after the attack.

“The sentences imposed by the Court reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ conduct and send a clear message that those who engage in racially motivated violence that seeks to deprive citizens of their fundamental right to vote will be punished,”stated United States Attorney Campbell. “We are grateful for our partnership with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the New York City Police Department in this matter, and I thank the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for its assistance.”

“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 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.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Demarest stated, “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. 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 Assistant United States Attorneys Pamela K. Chen and Margo K. Brodie, and Department of Justice Special Litigation Counsel Kristy L. Parker.

The Defendants:

Age: 19

Age: 18

Age: 19

Age: 21