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Relatives: Rioters were overcharged

Tom Jackson • Oct 3, 2013 at 9:50 AM

But was it a burglary and a “riot” featuring gang-related violence? A group of local parents and grandparents, many related to the people facing charges, beg to differ.

Police described the brawl at an apartment on Fox Run Trail as a gang battle.

Charges have been filed against 19 young men, ages 14 to 19, alleging participating in criminal gang activity, aggravated rioting, burglary and complicity to vandalism. Teens involved also face curfew violation charges.

A mostly African-American crowd of about a dozen people staged a “Save Our Sons” sign waving protest in downtown Sandusky early Saturday afternoon. Three protesters interviewed later said they realize that fighting is wrong and charges such as “disorderly conduct” might be appropriate, but argued that the youths were overcharged.

Sue Jones, 54, Sandusky, one of the organizers, said labeling the boys gang members and hitting them with heavy charges is counterproductive.    “We have concerns about our children being called a gang,” said Jones, who said the kids were merely friends. She said her grandson was among those charged. He wasn’t even there, she said.

“I think they’re going overboard on some of these charges,” said Arthur Simpson, 58, Sandusky, who said one of the people charged is his son.

Black people in Sandusky are being targeted, contends Cathy Dickerson, an NAACP member.

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said the charges appear to match the facts given to prosecutors by police. Fighting by four or more people is rioting. Trespassing an occupied structure for the purpose of committing a crime is burglary, Baxter said.

Baxter said it’s early in the process and the cases have not yet gone to a grand jury, where the charges could change.

And he said prosecutors will listen to defense attorneys, who can present evidence and make a case for lesser charges, or none at all.

Det. Sgt. Dana Newell of the Sandusky Police Department said police will present evidence in court that the Sandusky participants in the fight were affiliated with two gangs, the Black Point Mafia and the Gotti Boys.

Simpson said his 16-year-old son was on probation for a previous crime. He said he did not know what the crime was.

Jones was asked if the presence of many minors at a fight at about 1 a.m. suggested a lack of parental supervision.

“I understand your point,” she said. “I’m 54 years old. I’ve never dealt with this,” she said. “My children did what I told them to do. This is a different generation.”

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