3 Locals Acquitted Of Ethnic Intimidation

CLEVELAND (AP) - A jury acquitted three people of making ethnic slurs against two Palestinian-American grocer store owners about two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The felony indictments stemmed from an argument about a 7-cent debt to a convenience store that escalated into a scuffle and name-calling.

Richard Wells, 26, Jonathan Alexander, 25, and Cherita Rogers, 25, all of Cleveland, had been charged with two counts each of ethnic intimidation in the Sept. 23 incident at Scott's Grocery.

"This was a total overreaction to the events of Sept. 11," said Brian McGraw, Alexander's lawyer.

The dispute between the three and the store owners, brothers Nasser and Adnan Wahdan, began when Wells was 7 cents short for a soda and a cigar.

Brian Mooney, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said the victims testified they didn't feel the actions of the three were motivated by race or ethnicity, a key element of the crime.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)