Mentally ill man sentenced to 25 years for hate crime killing

By Ray Downs  |  Sept. 12, 2017 at 8:53 PM
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Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A schizophrenic black man who said he wanted to attack white people -- and punched several in New York City's Union Square Park, killing one -- was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday.

Lashawn Marten assaulted random people in the 2013 incident, including Jeffrey Babbitt, a 64-year-old retiree on his way to a comic book shop.

Babbitt died after he was punched and fell to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. Marten, 40, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault earlier this year. Tuesday, he received a 25-year prison sentence.

"When you are off your medications, you are a danger to society, and you're a powder keg that is ready to ignite," said judge Melissa Jackson before handing down the maximum sentence.

Prosecutors said Marten had a long history of violent behavior, including other random attacks in the street, as he struggled with mental illness.

"There is no justification for street violence of any kind, but street violence fueled by hatred and prejudice is particularly inexcusable," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said. "As the jury concluded, this was not a series of random attacks. Lashawn Marten targeted victims solely on the basis of their skin color."

Marten's lawyer, Michael J. Croce, asked for mercy due to his client's mental illness. Croce said Marten, who was also homeless at the time of the attack, had such strong delusions that he believed he'd gotten into a fight with Babbitt because of a chess match.

Croce said locking up a mentally ill man was evidence of a flawed justice system.

"What benefit is it to warehouse him the rest of his life?" he said.

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