240-year sentence for NYC hate crimes

By on March 23, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

NEW YORK – A judge gave a 240-year prison sentence Wednesday to a black man who took hostages in an East Village bar, injuring several with bullets and kerosene, while telling the patrons that “white people are going to burn tonight.” State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley told Steven Johnson, 39, that he had forfeited his “right to live in society.”

Wiley said the purpose of the sentence was “to punish you and to protect the society in which we live.”

Johnson, 39, was convicted on March 1 of attempted murder, assault and other charges, including some designated as hate crimes.

Johnson invaded Bar Veloce while nine men and six women were inside it on June 16, 2002. He was carrying three pistols, a samurai sword and a container of kerosene.

He later told police he had left the Brooklyn housing project where he lived and took the subway to Manhattan’s East Village, where he looked for “happy” white people to avenge the mistreatment of black people.

He shot and wounded three people, including a police officer, and sprayed kerosene on several customers and threatened to set them on fire. Two women caught Johnson off guard and tackled him, and a policeman shot him.

About a dozen victims and their supporters were in the courtroom for the sentencing.

Johnson declined to speak. Defense lawyer Michele Galernt had asked the judge to consider Johnson’s diagnosed mental disorders and the fact that he had been a sexually abused child.
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