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Tue, 03.31.1998

The Crown Heights Riot Sentencing Occurs

*On this date, in 1998, a Black man was sentenced for involvement in the Crown Heights Riot. Lemrick Nelson Jr. got 19 1/2 years in prison for his part in the 1991 stabbing death of a Jewish scholar during a race riot in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section.

Nelson, age 22, was given the maximum possible sentence by Judge David Trager in Brooklyn federal court, where he was convicted 13 months ago of violating Yankel Rosenbaum’s civil rights.  Nelson earlier had been acquitted in a state court of stabbing Rosenbaum. In a statement to the court, Nelson denied committing the crime. Turning to look at Rosenbaum’s family, he said, “I just want to say I have sympathy for your feelings for the loss of your son. I had no part in it... I’m like a scapegoat.”

Rosenbaum, age 29 and a native of Australia, was fatally stabbed on August 19, 1991, the first of four nights of unrest. The trouble broke out after a 7-year-old Black Boy, Gavin Cato, was fatally injured in a traffic accident involving a car driven by a Hasidic Jew. The 1991 turbulence helped lead to the re-election defeat of David Dinkins, New York’s first Black mayor.


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