Saturday, January 14, 2006

Four teens plead guilty to lynching

GAFFNEY — Five white teenagers have been sentenced to prison terms after pleading guilty Tuesday to second-degree lynching charges in an attack on a black teenager this summer.

Christopher Scott Cates will serve six years in prison after pleading guilty to lynching and assault, said Murray Glenn, a spokesman for the Cherokee County prosecutor's office

Jason Grice, Justin Ashley Phillips and Kenneth Eugene Miller Jr. will have to spend three years in prison each and Jerry Christopher Toney will have to spend 30 months in prison, Glenn said. All will be on probation for five years after serving their prison terms.

"We will absolutely not tolerate this type of behavior at all," Circuit Judge Jack Early told the five teens. "It is a most cowardly way to act. ... I'm going to send a message with your sentence."

Lynching is the term used in South Carolina for any crime committed by a group against an individual in which the victim is not killed.

Although prosecutors in the case said it appeared the attack was racially motivated, that is not an element of the crime of lynching. Federal investigators determined the attack was not a hate crime.

Investigators say the five chased and beat up 16-year-old Isaiah Clyburn as he walked home from a friend's house on July 7.

The teens apologized for the attack and a representative for the victim's family said Clyburn had forgiven his attackers.

In an interview on Court TV, Clyburn said he would ask his attackers why they chose him. "Why did you have to do it to me?" Clyburn said. "I ain't never hurt none of y'all."

Seventeen-year-old Amy Woody also was charged in the case, but prosecutors say she was remained in one of the teens' trucks during the attack. She was to be tried separately on a charge of misprision of a felony after police say she withheld information from investigators.

CNN coverage

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