The fourth teen accused in the June 30 death of Joshua Chellew had his initial hearing postponed Tuesday until he can hire an attorney or have one appointed.
All four of the suspects are black and Chellew was white. That fact, combined with police evidence that the teens were acting as part of a street gang, was enough to cause the story to go viral on the Internet during the recent George Zimmerman trial.
Georgia has no hate crime law, but if “bias” against someone’s race or religion is found to be a motivating factor in a crime, then a judge can tack on up to five years additional prison time during the sentencing phase of a case, according to Sgt. Dana Pierce, spokesman for Cobb Police Department.
The purpose of this week’s hearings is to establish probable cause to prosecute the cases and also to decide if the teens will be allowed to post bonds and, if so, at what amount.
Those facing murder charges are Jekari Oshay Strozier, 19, of Austell, along with Mableton residents Johnathan Donald Anthony, 18, Antonio Shantwan Pass, 18, and Kemonta Deandre Bonds, 18. They also face charges of aggravated assault and felony street gang activity related to the death of Chellew.
All four suspects have remained in the Cobb County jail without bonds since July 2.
They are accused of starting a fight with Chellew in the parking lot of a Chevron station in the 6200 block of Mableton Parkway near Community Drive at about 1:20 a.m., punching, hitting and kicking him.
As Chellew attempted to escape, he backed into the center of the nearby five-lane highway, but the teenagers reportedly continued to push him to the ground where he was beaten until unconscious, according to arrest warrants.
Chellew was hit by a driver on Mableton Parkway who originally fled the scene, according to police, but later turned himself in. He was not charged because the hit-and-run was ruled an accident.
Witnesses on the scene told police that “at no time did (the four teens) attempt to aid (Chellew), or to stop the approaching vehicle,” the warrant states.
After Chellew was struck by the passing car, the four young men reportedly walked away, “leaving him helpless.”
The warrant states that the Strozier, Anthony, Pass and Bonds are accused of street gang violence because they belong to the “Re-Up” gang, according to the Cobb Anti-Gang E Unit, and have been previously arrested in connection with gang-related crimes.
Exactly why they would have chosen to attack Chellew remains in question. Was the motivation robbery, a random attack related to their gang activity, or was it racial?
“This will come out at trial,” Pierce said.