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Victims get protection in Howard Beach case

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But Joseph Suraci, the attorney for suspect Terrance Scott, downplayed the restraining orders as "routine."Other than the orders of protection, the cases against Scott, 18; George Morales, 25; Patrick Pugh, 18; Talique Jackson, 16; and Victor Tossas, 16 Ð all from Brooklyn Ð were adjourned to Feb. 7.The suspects allegedly forced four white teenagers from Howard Beach into a McDonald's on Cross Bay Boulevard Halloween night, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.One of the victims was struck in the back of the neck with a hard object inside the McDonald's, while another victim was hit in the head with a broom handle, Brown said.The suspects, who were all black or Hispanic, were charged with assault, although not as a hate crime despite an investigation by the DA's Hate Crime Bureau.Suraci, who was only one of two attorneys for the defendants at the Monday conference before Queens Criminal Court judge William Harrington , noted that witnesses twice failed to identify his client in police lineups."There were no identifications from the lineup," he said.Prosecutors "had an opportunity to put as many people as they wanted in the lineup," Suraci later said in a telephone phone interview.Suraci said he is "hoping that (the case is) disposed of favorably" during the next Feb. 7 court date "because the evidence is weak," referring to failure to identify his client from a police lineup.Meanwhile, Brown's office issued a news release Dec. 31 that urged anyone with information about the attack to contact his Hate Crime Bureau or the Police Department.When asked why the DA would put out such a release two months after the incident and whether the office could rely on information from witnesses , a spokeswoman said "we're just asking for whatever help the public can give."The spokeswoman said prosecutors are "expected to have a disposition" in the case at the Feb. 7 court date, which she said may contain a plea deal.But Suraci said no such deal has been offered and he was not sure what to expect at the court date."I guess (prosecutors) are waiting to figure out what they're going to do," he said.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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