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February 13, 2007

Marines beat Yalies

San Francisco Chronicle (CA)

As many as three U.S. Marines were involved in the alleged New Year's attack on the Baker's Dozen singing group, an attorney for two singers is claiming in a letter that asks for the head of the Marine Corps' help in the investigation.

In a Feb. 9 letter to Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman Jr., the head of the Marine Corps, attorney James Hammer named only one of the Marines allegedly involved, saying that he "was one of the men at the center of the attacks and we believe (he) personally participated in the brutal attack on both students.''

Sgt. Neville Gittens, a spokesman for the San Francisco police, said the department's criminal investigation is ongoing. "We're aware of the letter. We are not commenting on the letter,'' he said. The Marine Corps headquarters in San Diego, where the serviceman named in the letter had been based, had no immediate comment.

Hammer, one of the lawyers for Gogel and Aziz, said the named Marine was among the four men detained by police that night in connection with the attack on Gogel but not arrested. The lawyers for the injured singers said their clients provided police ample information to make an arrest that night and charge the attackers with assault. Police have since said that the victims they were talking to vanished after pointing out their attackers, and their departure from the scene led to the release of the four men.

In the letter, Hammer said the Marine he identified was also involved in the attack on Aziz, who was "brutally punched in the face after he had turned to walk away'' from a group of men. One doctor observed that Aziz's jaw was broken "by a trained fighter or someone using a deadly weapon.''

The Marine, according to the letter, used a cell phone to photograph "the wounds to the knuckles of his fellow attackers and proceeded to attempt to destroy evidence in an effort to cover up his involvement and escape prosecution.''

In the letter, Hammer said that police have been "stymied in their efforts'' to contact the Marine because he was sent to Japan after the incident. "Because of the serious nature of these assaults, I am writing to ask your help in initiating a criminal investigation ... and provide whatever assistance you can to San Francisco authorities so that they can interview him in connection with their investigation,'' he wrote. The letter asserts that while there "is already more than enough evidence'' to charge the Marine with felony assault, the district attorney's office has not acted.

In a prepared statement, District Attorney Kamala Harris said: "I completely understand the frustration of the victims and the families. But a rush to judgment does not serve justice. I'm optimistic that the San Francisco Police Department will complete the investigation soon. Once they're done, my office will take action."

But in the letter, Hammer said: "At this point, the victims' families are concerned that (the Marine) may escape justice unless the United States Marine Corps takes an active part in investigating his involvement in these violent crimes.''

The evidence suggests, Hammer wrote, that "two other United States Marines may have been involved in this gang attack.'' He concluded that the "case has the potential of generating extremely negative publicity'' for the Marines. The letter states that police are making "diligent efforts'' to investigate the case. "Without your assistance, I am afraid their efforts may be thwarted," the letter says.

Well I wonder what Sean Hannity and the other conservatives are saying now? In following this story, and as a San Francisco area resident, I was most disturbed by some of the rhetoric directed toward this great city. Apparently, as home district of Nancy Pelosi, one can "get beat up for singing the Star Spangled Banner". What nonsense! Somehow I don't think we are going to hear much more San Francisco bashing now that it appears that marines, rather than "America-hating liberals", were involved.

Posted by acapnews at February 13, 2007 10:10 PM