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January 8, 2007

Yale Choir Assaulted; No Arrests By SFPD

abc7news (CA):

Members of a renowned choral group from Yale University were attacked outside a New Year's Eve party in San Francisco, sending several of them to the hospital. Now the police department is coming under fire for its handling of the case. This does not look good for the city. Yale sends its popular singing group, The Baker's Dozen, on a holiday concert tour. And San Francisco sends the young men away bloody, bruised, and several of them seriously injured.

Laura Aziz sent her son, Sharyar, off on a concert tour with one of Yale University's singing groups -- he came to San Francisco over New Year's. This is how the 18-year-old returned to New York last week. Sharyar Aziz, Yale University Student: "Besides any bruising or scrapes to the face, the main injury that I suffered was I broke my jaw in two places." Laura Aziz, Sharyar's Mother: "It was shocking. It didn't make any sense. It still doesn't make any sense."

The Baker's Dozen are a 58-year tradition at Yale. They've put out two dozen albums and toured the country, with appearances at the White House and Los Angeles Lakers games. When their winter tour brought them to San Francisco, retired police officer and department lawyer, Reno Rapagnani, arranged a New Year's Eve party at his home in the group's honor. Reno Rapagnani, Retired SFPD Lawyer: "I had given strict orders to my daughter that if anything got out of hand that the party would be over."

The trouble started at midnight after The Baker's Dozen sang "The Star Spangled Banner." Witnesses say a few local young men didn't appreciate the attention the Yale students were getting, made fun of their conservative dress and began taunting them and making threats. Leanna Dawydiak, Hosted Party: "They had something here special that these other fellas obviously didn't have and that irritated them."

Witnesses say 19-year-old Richard Aicardi was the most aggressive. Sharyar Aziz: "'You're not welcome here,' he called a few members of the group, whether it was fag or homo, very, I would say, juvenile taunting." Aicardi took out his cell phone and called in reinforcements. Reno Rapagnani: "He said, 'I'm 20 deep, my boys are coming.'"

One of the vehicles that brought the attackers was captured by surveillance camera at a church across the street. As The Baker's Dozen left the house, they were ambushed -- five, six, seven assailants attacking each member. Their injuries ranged from scrapes, black eyes, a badly sprained ankle to concussions. The most seriously injured was Sharyar Aziz. He was rushed back to New York for reconstructive surgery -- his jaws wired shut for eight weeks. He'll forever have two titanium plates in his face. The varsity squash player will miss the season, now underway. He's trying to remain positive.

Sharyar Aziz: "I can't just look back at that incident and be depressed for the next two months. I have to learn to deal with what's been given to me." What especially concerns the Aziz family -- when police arrived, they detained four of the attackers who were identified by members of The Baker's Dozen, but officers did not make an arrest. And a full week later, they still haven't made an arrest.

Whitney Leigh, Gonzalez & Leigh Law Firm: "That doesn't seem to comport with traditional police practices and as a result, at least at this point, there's several violent youths or young men, actually, who are out on the street and shouldn't be." Police investigators didn't even bother to photograph the injuries to The Baker's Dozen. The couple who held the party that night took pictures. Leanna Dawydiak: "Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems as a citizen in San Francisco that something should be done a little more than has been."

Police spokesman Neville Gittens defends the handling of the case. Neville Gittens, SFPD Spokesman: "What you want to do is you want to have a complete, thorough investigation. So the officers responded, the fight was abated and now an investigation is ongoing."

The couple who hosted the party wonder whether the authorities are moving slowly because of the family involved. Rich Aicardi and two of his brothers who were involved in the incident are the sons of prominent San Francisco pediatrician Eileen Aicardi.

The I-Team met with Eileen Aicardi and her sons last night. They invited us into their home in the shadow of Coit Tower, but later declined to be interviewed. Rich Aicardi did not want to have his picture taken. The incident threatens to be another black eye for the City of San Francisco.

Mayor Gavin Newsom wouldn't address it when we caught up with him late this afternoon. There has been movement since we began investigating this story Friday night. Police interviewed Richard Aicardi on Sunday. Officials at Yale, by the way, issued a statement this afternoon saying they hope the "perpetrators will be apprehended and prosecuted." We'll keep on top of this and report back to you if something happens.

Have a tip on this or another investigation? E-mail the ABC7 I-Team or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.

Posted by acapnews at January 8, 2007 10:42 PM