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3 indicted in election night assaults on Staten Island

Three reputed gang toughs from Staten Island were indicted yesterday on federal civil rights charges that they assaulted black and Hispanic men in retaliation for the election of Barack Obama as president.

The one-count indictment handed up from a Brooklyn federal grand jury accused Ralph Nicoletti, 18, Michael Contreras, 18, and Brian Carranza, 21, of launching out on election night on Staten Island with the mission of beating up African-Americans in retaliation for Obama's victory.

Ali Kamara, 17, an African-American, was beaten with a metal pipe by Nicoletti as he walked home after watching election returns on television, said prosecutors in a letter filed in Brooklyn federal court. Kamara suffered head and leg injuries, investigators said.

The group then beat up another black man in the Port Richmond area and verbally accosted a Latino man, demanding to know for whom he voted, according to prosecutors. Finally, the group assaulted Ronald Forte, a white man whom they mistakenly believed was black, throwing him into a car windshield and causing him to go into a coma temporarily, prosecutors said in the letter.

"Violence and intimidation aimed at interfering with the constitutional rights of every citizen, including the right to vote, will not be tolerated," U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said in a statement.

Nicoletti, who investigators said is a member of the gang known as the " Rosebank Crew," was ordered held without bail by Magistrate-judge Roanne L. Mann in Brooklyn. Prosecutors said the local gang was formed to protect members in disputes and has carried out significant violence.

During a search of Nicoletti's home, FBI agents found documents about the gang, a collapsible police baton, two butterfly knives and a leather covered piece of metal used as a weapon, court documents stated.

Nicoletti allegedly beat up Contreras last month, believing he was a "snitch" cooperating with police, prosecutors said.

Nicoletti and Carranza are white and Contreras is Hispanic. All three pleaded not guilty at their arraignment. Like Nicoletti, Carranza was ordered held without bail. Contreras is free on a $200,000 bond.

At the arraignment, Forte's mother told the court her son had been "left in the gutter to die" and needs constant care.

"It's the most horrible thing that's ever happened to me and my family, and it is not going away," Eileen Forte said.

"My son was innocent; they beat him for Obama," said Jeneba Ladepo, Kamara's mother.

The defendants face up to 10 years in prison, and prosecutors said that may increase because they anticipate bringing additional charges.

This story was supplemented with a report from The Associated Press.

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