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Tuesday, October 26, 2004; Page A26

Ga. High Court Strikes Down State's Hate Crimes Law

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's hate crimes law Monday, saying the measure is so broadly worded that it could be used to prosecute a sports fan for picking on somebody wearing a rival team's cap.

The 7 to 0 ruling came in the case of a white man and a white woman convicted of beating two black men in Atlanta.

It was the first application of the 2000 law, which called for as many as five extra years in prison for crimes in which the victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice."

Forty-eight states have hate crimes laws; Georgia's was the only one not specifying which groups qualified for protection.

Angela Pisciotta and Christopher Botts were accused of severely beating brothers Che and Idris Golden in 2002 while screaming racial epithets. They pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the judge sentenced them to six years in prison, plus two years under the hate crimes law. Their lawyers argued on appeal that the hate crimes statute should be struck down because almost any crime involving prejudice falls under its scope.

The high court said that it "by no means" condones the "savage attack . . . or any conduct motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view." But it said the law was "unconstitutionally vague" and so broad that it could be applied to every possible prejudice.

MAGNOLIA, Ark. -- Hundreds of Medicare patients rolled down their windows and rolled up their sleeves to get a flu shot while sitting in their cars at a drive-through clinic. Magnolia Hospital inoculated more than 370 people in about 90 minutes in the hospital parking lot, and traffic backed up as people showed up early for the limited number of shots. When the supply ran out, a line of cars still stretched down the street.

DETROIT -- A train carrying a flammable liquid derailed in a residential neighborhood, and three schools were evacuated and hundreds of people were removed, officials said. Four of the nine derailed cars contained methanol, which is flammable.

LUBBOCK, Tex. -- The bodies of a woman and her three children were found in their blood-spattered apartment, and police said they had not determined a motive for the deaths. The dead were Tammy Cooper, 45; her daughter, Mahogany Jasmine Allen, 11; and twin sons KaDiece and Kasheim Allen, 9.

NEW YORK -- Graffiti artist James De La Vega was sentenced to 50 hours of community service for painting on the wall of a Bronx building without the owner's permission. De La Vega, who received a degree in fine arts from Cornell in 1994, is well known in East Harlem for his chalk drawings and murals.

TAYLORVILLE, Ill. -- A single-engine plane used by a parachuting club crashed into a field, and Bill Jensen, 38, whose parachute became tangled in the plane's tail, was killed when his head hit the wing, authorities said. The others on board, including the pilot, parachuted to safety.

TOLEDO -- Joe Jaramillo climbed a staircase with smoke searing his eyes and the cries of seven trapped children ringing in his ears. But he and other potential rescuers were driven back by smoke from a blaze that killed five sisters, their brother and a cousin -- ages 6 months to 7 years -- in an apartment Sunday afternoon.

-- From News Services

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