By Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner
11:20 PM CST, January 18, 2012
The father of one of seven teenagers accused of luring a 17-year-old high school student into a South Side alley, where they beat and robbed him in a videotaped attack, said his son was retaliating for an earlier scuffle involving the victim.
Michael Palomino, a Cook County sheriff's deputy, said his 17-year-old son Raymond is being “made out as the fall guy.” Palomino said he called police and agreed to turn his son in after seeing the video on the news.
His son has been charged as an adult with robbery and aggravated battery for the attack that has gone viral on YouTube. Judge Israel Desierto set bail for Palomino at $100,000 over the strenuous arguments of the teen’s attorney.
After the hearing, his father said the attack was “retaliation” for an incident last month when the victim and his friends jumped Raymond and another boy after school. After that incident, there was a lot of trash talking on Facebook and things spiraled out of control, the father said.
“He’s the only one charged as an adult,” Michael Palomino said. “They’re making it sound like he did everything. It’s just one side of the story.”
His son appeared in court wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. He hung his head low throughout the 10-minute hearing and appeared to have tears in his eyes as he was led from the courtroom.
In asking for a low bond, defense attorney Ilia Usharovich said Palomino is a “young man with no criminal record who was ashamed to find himself where he was."
“As you can see, he can’t even look anybody in the face because he’s embarrassed to be standing here,” Usharovich told the judge.
The teen’s father said outside court that Raymond is generally a good student who has done well in school, but got mixed up with some friends who are troublemakers.
“He’s a good kid,” said Michael Palomino. “He’s had bad moments here and there, but nothing like this before.”
The other teens -- two 16-year-old boys, three 15-year-old boys and a 15-year-old girl -- were all cited in juvenile delinquency petitions on the same charges, police said. Their identities were not made public because they are juveniles. Police said one of the teens lives in Arlington Heights, the rest in Chicago.
Prosecutors said Palomino and the other boys persuaded the girl to lure the victim into an alley in the 2700 block of South Shields, where the others were waiting to beat him.
When Palomino saw the victim walking through the alley, he yelled “get him!” to the others, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti.
The video was shot via cell phone. Other teens posting comments on the video identified the attackers by name. Palomino, whose face was clearly visible in the video, was one of those identified.
Antonietti said the video shows Palomino removing a gym shoe from the victim’s backpack and striking him with it repeatedly in the face. Palomino also took the victim’s wallet, removed cash and then dropped it into a sewer, she said.
The victim suffered bruising to his eyes, a swollen, bloody nose, cuts to his lips and bruises to his ribs and body, Antonietti said. He was treated and released from a hospital on the day of the attack.
Palomino was later identified in a lineup by the victim, Antonietti said.
In the attack, which lasted for several minutes Sunday afternoon, the boy covers his face as the other youths surround him and push him into the snow while kicking and punching his head, his legs, his back.
The attackers yell that the boy had "(expletive) up."
"Hold on," the teen says as he pulls himself to his feet and tries to talk them into stopping.
But one of the attackers, wearing gray sweats, asks: "Do you (expletive) understand?" He then punches the boy in the face and knocks him to the ground, then kicks him in the face, sending the boy sprawling on the snow-covered ground.
The victim is a senior at Curie High School on the Southwest Side, according to a Chicago Public Schools spokesman.
Even though the boy's assailants used racial epithets, in a brief statement Tuesday, police said the attack did not appear to be racially motivated.
The videotaped beating stemmed from a fight in October between the victim and his attackers, police said.
"These developments (the video) led to swift arrests and great detective work," Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a news conference.
"As a result of their posting, we had great cooperation from the community," McCarthy said. "This video assisted us greatly in identifying the offenders in this incident."
Wentworth Area Cmdr. Patricia Walsh said the attack stemmed from "ongoing teen-aged disputes" and "disagreements" that escalated into a fight in October.
"The initial altercation involved the victim and the offending group," Walsh said. "It was not (previously) reported."
The image of Chicago in this case has been reflective in similar incident in other cities, where youths go on "sprees," videotape them and post them on YouTube, McCarthy said.
"This is a national epidemic. It's not something that's particular to Chicago," he said.
McCarthy pointed out that the video could've been a lot worse.
"The first time I looked at that video, the first thing I thought about was a friend of mine who I've seen in a video of him, and he ends up dying as a result..."
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