Big court cases define year in Howard Beach

By Stephen Stirling

July saw the end to the yearlong saga of the Nicholas Minucci hate crime trial, when the 20-year-old was sentenced to 15 years of prison for the racially-motivated beating of 23-year-old Glen Moore which occurred in July 2005. The case brought both local and national attention to Howard Beach and prompted protests and demonstrations by the likes of Reverend Al Sharpton and the NAACP. The case also drew comparisons to another that spotlighted the community 20 years earlier, when three Howard Beach youths were given a similar sentence for the manslaughter death of Michael Griffith, an African American who died in December 1986 after being hit by a car when he was chased onto Shore Front Parkway by a group of white men wielding bats and shouting racial slurs. Only a few months after Minucci's July 15 sentencing in Queens Criminal Court, another allegedly racial-bias incident took place just south of Howard Beach in Broad Channel. Police said that on Halloween, Robert Glade, Nicholas Stack, Patricia Rich and Patrick Rich – all of Broad Channel – allegedly helped incite a riot that led to the attack undercover detective Marques Stewart. The Queens district attorney brought aggravated harassment charges against the four after evidence led him to believe that they acted with racial malice in their confrontation with Stewart, peppering the officer with racial slurs while he attempted to place them under arrest. The four Broad Channel residents are due back in court Jan. 8. 2006 also saw the end to the third and last racketeering trial against former mob scion and Howard Beach native John Gotti Jr. Federal prosecutors announced that they would not seek another trial against Gotti after their third attempt to convict the former mobster proved futile when a federal judge declared a mistrial in the case on Sept. 27, citing a deadlocked jury. It was the third case against Gotti to end in a mistrial since 2004, and following the case Gotti said publicly that he planned to leave the state of New York with his family permanently. St. Virgilius Catholic School in Broad Channel also saw its end in 2006 when the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese shuttered the school permanently on June 22, putting an end to the 75 years the school had served as the island community's only Catholic school. Parents of St. Virgilius fought a long and hard battle to keep the school – considered by many in the community to be an iconic part of its history – from closing down. Parents contended that the Diocese's decision unfairly affected members of the community, many of whom will now have to drive their children several miles to attend another Catholic school. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at (718)229-0300 ext. 162.

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