A black man convicted in the death of a white Jewish scholar during race riots in the 1990s has been stabbed in the head with an ice pick in a possible road rage attack, police say.
Lemrick Nelson was found outside his car on a Manhattan street early Sunday and was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Police had made no arrests.
Nelson was a central figure in the rioting that tore through Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood in 1991, stoked by tensions between the Jewish and black communities living side by side.
The riots began Aug. 19 of that year after a 7-year-old black boy, Gavin Cato, was struck and killed by a driver belonging to the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community. Three hours later, a gang of angry blacks shouting “Get the Jew!” descended on and fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, who was visiting from Australia. For more than two days, blacks looted stores, burned police cars and hurled bottles in the neighborhood.
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Nelson, who was 16 at the time, was acquitted of state murder charges but was convicted of federal civil rights charges after Rosenbaum’s death. An appeals court later overturned the federal conviction, saying the judge had tampered with the racial makeup of the jury.
In 2003, a new jury found Nelson guilty of violating Rosenbaum’s civil rights. Nelson was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released within a year because of time he had already served.
Nelson’s defense lawyers didn’t deny he had stabbed Rosenbaum, who was 29. Instead, they contended the slaying had nothing to do with the fact Rosenbaum was Jewish – a key element needed for a conviction.
Nelson, now 35, was on probation for three years. He has been living in New Jersey.