Howard Beach racial incident
The dead man was 23-year-old Michael Griffith, who was born on March 2, 1963 in Trinidad, immigrated to the United States in 1973, and lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was killed after being hit by a car on December 20, 1986, as he was chased onto a highway by a mob of white youths who had beaten him and his friends. Griffith's death was the second of three infamous racially motivated killings of black men by white mobs in New York City in the 1980s. The other victims were Willie Turks in 1982 and Yusuf Hawkins in 1989.
Late on the night of Friday, December 19, 1986, four black men, Michael Griffith, 23; Cedric Sandiford, 36; and Curtis Sylvester and Timothy Grimes, both 20, were riding in a car when it broke down in a deserted stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard near the Broad Channel neighborhood of Queens. Three of the men walked about three miles north to seek help in Howard Beach, a mostly white community, while Sylvester remained behind to watch the car. They argued with some white teens who were on their way to a party, then left.
By 12:30 a.m. on the 20th, the men reached the New Park Pizzeria, near the intersection of Cross Bay Boulevard and 157th Avenue. After a quick meal the men left the pizzeria at 12:40 A.M. and were confronted by a group of white men, including the group they had earlier confronted. Racial slurs were exchanged and a fight ensued. Sandiford and Griffith were seriously beaten; Grimes escaped unharmed. While trying to evade his attackers, Griffith ran in front of a moving car driven by the son of a police officer, and was killed. His body was found on Shore Parkway at 1:03 A.M.
Griffith's death provoked strong outrage and immediate condemnation by then-Mayor of New York Ed Koch, who referred to the case as the "No. 1 case in the city". Two days after the event, on December 22, three local teenagers, Jon Lester, Scott Kern, and Jason Ladone, students at John Adams High School, were arrested. They were charged with second-degree murder. The driver of the car that struck Griffith, 24-year-old Dominick Blum, was not charged with any crime; a May 1987 grand jury did not return criminal charges against him.
To protest the killing of Griffith, 1,200 demonstrators marched through the streets of Howard Beach on December 27, 1986. A heavy NYPD presence kept angry locals, who were screaming at the highly emotional crowd of marchers, in check.
The Griffith family, as well as Cedric Sandiford, retained the services of Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, two controversial attorneys who would become involved in the Tawana Brawley affair the following year. Maddox raised the ire of the NYPD and Commissioner Benjamin Ward by accusing them of trying to cover up facts in the case and aid the defendants.
After witnesses repeatedly refused to cooperate with Queens D.A. John J. Santucci, Governor of New York Mario Cuomo appointed Charles Hynes special prosecutor to handle the Griffith case on January 13, 1987. The move came after heavy pressure from black leaders on Cuomo to get Santucci, who was seen as too partial to the defendants to prosecute the case effectively, off the case.
Twelve defendants were indicted by a grand jury on February 9, 1987, including the original three charged in the case. Their original indictments had been dismissed after the witnesses refused to cooperate in the case.
After a lengthy trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, the three main defendants were convicted on December 21, 1987 of manslaughter, a little over a year after the death of Griffith. Kern, Lester and Ladone were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and Michael Pirone, 18, was acquitted. Ultimately nine people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to Griffith's death.
On January 22, 1988, Jon Lester was sentenced to ten to thirty years imprisonment. On February 5, Scott Kern was sentenced to six to eighteen years imprisonment, and on February 11, 1988, Jason Ladone received a sentence of five to fifteen years imprisonment.
In 1989, Timothy Grimes was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for shooting and badly wounding his brother in a 1988 incident in Virginia.
Cedric Sandiford, one of the principal victims and witnesses in the Griffith case, died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. In December 1999, the block where Griffith had lived was given the additional name “Michael Griffith Street.” 
Jason Ladone, then 29, was released from prison after serving 10 years in April 2000, and later became a city employee. He was arrested again in June 2006, on drug charges. In May 2001, Jon Lester was released and deported to his native England, while Scott Kern was released from prison last of the three main perpetrators, in 2002.
In 2005 the Griffith case was brought back to the public's attention after another racial attack in Howard Beach. A black man, Glenn Moore, was beaten severely with a metal baseball bat by Nicholas Minucci, who was convicted of hate crimes in 2006. The case was revisited yet again by the media, after the death of Michael Sandy, 29, who was beaten and hit by a car after being chased onto the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2006.
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- Murphy, Mary (2016-12-20). "Revisiting Howard Beach, 30 years after white mob chased black man to his death on Belt Parkway". WPIX. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
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- Smothers, Ronald "Hynes Is Selected To Be Prosecutor In Queens Attack." New York Times 14 January 1987, p. A1.
- Fried, Joseph P. (7 April 1989). "Prison for Howard Beach Victim". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
- Press Release Archives #453-99- MAYOR GIULIANI SIGNS BILL THAT NAMES STREET AFTER MICHAEL GRIFFITH
- Shifrel, Scott (2006-10-17). "Howard Beach Slay Perp Busted Again". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
- Kilgannon, Corey (2006-06-10). "Batsman Convicted of Howard Beach Hate Crimes". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-04-19.