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Feds charge 3 N.Y. men in election bias attacks

/ Source: The Associated Press

Three white New Yorkers, riled by Barack Obama's victory, spent election night hunting down black people to beat up and yelling insults about the president-elect, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The men beat a Liberian immigrant teen, pushed a black man to the ground and drove their car over a white man they thought was black, according to the indictment unsealed in Brooklyn.

Ralph Nicoletti, 18, Michael Contreras, 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, were arrested early Wednesday. They were to be arraigned later in the day on charges of conspiracy to interfere with voting rights.

A fourth defendant was expected to separately plead guilty to unspecified charges, according to law enforcement officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plea deal had not been made public.

The names of the defendants' attorneys were not immediately on record, according to prosecutors.

Makeshift clubhouse
Before the rampage on Nov. 4, the teens had gathered at a makeshift clubhouse in the New York borough of Staten Island where they monitored the election results on the Internet.

"Shortly after learning of Barack Obama's victory, (they) decided to find African-Americans to assault in retaliation for an African-American winning the election," prosecutors said in court papers.

Nicoletti drove the group to a black neighborhood, where they stopped a teenage immigrant from Liberia and beat him with a metal pipe and retractable police baton. They later pushed a black man to the ground, demanded a Hispanic man tell them how he voted and "yelled profanities about Obama as they drove past an election night gathering of African-Americans at a hair salon," the court papers said.

Finally, the defendants used their car to run over a white man they mistakenly believed was black, the papers said. The victim was in a coma for several days but survived.

Nicoletti was part of a vigilante crew whose "primary purpose is to defend its members in inter-neighborhood disputes, some of which have resulted in significant violence," the indictment said.

Prosecutors had previously charged two of the defendants with assault as a hate crime and weapon possession while the FBI investigated the civil rights case.

If convicted of the federal charges, they face up to 10 years in prison.