Today’s news:

Oakland Gds. cousins convicted in bias attack

Two cousins from Oakland Gardens were convicted of a hate crime assault last week for severely beating a pair of black election workers in their neighborhood in November 2000, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Marvin Ortega, 17, and Marlon Fernandez, 20, both of 223-59B 65th Ave. in Oakland Gardens, were convicted last week of third- degree assault after a non-jury trial in State Supreme Court.

The cousins were accused of shouting racial epithets at the victims before attacking them, the DA’s office said. The two election workers were handing out pamphlets near the intersection of 65th Avenue and 224th Street encouraging people to vote in the presidential election.

Brown said the case was the second in Queens to result in a conviction after trial under the state’s new hate crimes law.

The statute defines a hate crime as an act committed by a person who intentionally harms another because of a belief about the victim’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion or religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether or not the belief is correct.

Brown’s office said Ortega and Fernandez could each face up to four years in prison when sentenced by State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis on Feb. 13.

One of the victims sustained an eye injury in the attack, the DA’s office said, while the other had multiple contusions to his face and jaw.

Ken Cohen, head of the northeast Queens chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the assault victims were working for the NAACP and had been operating out of a church in Jamaica.

“I really am glad to see justice served, especially in the case of these young people, who were out serving not only the NAACP, but society,” said Cohen, who hailed the conviction as “a milestone.”

Brown said in a statement “this verdict sends a strong and clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Queens County and will be prosecuted vigorously.”

Cohen said the NAACP had been following the case closely, sending volunteers to maintain the group’s presence in the courtroom and staying in contact with the victims and the authorities prosecuting the case.

Cohen said the NAACP has maintained close ties with the Queens district attorney and would like to keep doing so.

“We hope to continue staying close to the DA,” he said. “Too many times we’re strangers.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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