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August 26, 2004

Community Briefs

http://www.jewishjournal.com/nation/article/community_briefs_20040827

Casino Wins License

The California Gambling Control Commission voted 3-0 to grant Dr. Irving Moskowitz a permanent license for his Hawaiian Gardens Casino card club, ending a long battle by peace activists opposed to Moskowitz's funding of West Bank settlers.

The retired Long Beach doctor's casino-style card club in small, poor Hawaiian Gardens in southeast Los Angeles County had been operating with a temporary license for a number of years. The commission's Aug. 19 vote in Sacramento had one commissioner abstaining over still-unresolved concerns about casino management. The commission's approval included the condition that Moskowitz create an independent audit committee and other internal casino reforms.

"It was long overdue," said former Moskowitz attorney Beryl Weiner, who has handled the license application for the past nine years and was the main public face of Moskowitz, who uses part of his gambling proceeds to purchase land for Jewish settlers.

The commission's vote dealt a serious blow to Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak and his Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem, which enlisted actor Ed Asner to speak out against the license.

"I think that Jews should worry when government regulatory bodies don't work," Beliak told The Journal.

It is unusual for a state commission's decision to be reviewed by the courts, especially if much of the opposition stems from activities outside a state court's jurisdiction, in this case Israel.

"We're thinking," Beliak said, when asked what his group's next move would be. "We're talking to our lawyers."

Unlike the commission's Los Angeles hearings in December and January, the Moskowitz issue did not dominate its late February meeting, and the Aug. 19 hearing in Sacramento did not attract as much interest.

Three weeks before the hearing, Moskowitz cut ties with Weiner. It is not clear who now represents the reclusive casino owner, who has retired to Florida and does not attend hearings or speak to the media.

"I'm no longer representing Dr. Moskowitz," Weiner said of his former client of 31 years. "It was an amicable split. I have no regrets. Everything that was done [for the casino license], all the foundation and all the spade work, was done during the period of time that I represented him." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Professor Convicted in Hate-Crime Hoax

A psychology professor accused of perpetrating a hate-crime hoax by vandalizing her own car with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was convicted by a jury on Aug. 19 of filing a false police report and attempted insurance fraud.

Kerri Dunn, who was tried in a Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pomona, could receive up to three and a half years in prison for the crimes. Her sentencing is set for Sept. 17. When the apparent hate crime at Claremont McKenna College was initially reported on March 9, the campus and Jewish communities reacted with outrage, staging daylong sit-ins, teach-ins, forums and rallies.

Dunn, then an assistant visiting professor at Claremont McKenna, reported that her 1990 Honda Civic had been vandalized after she had given a lecture on racism. The car's tires had been slashed, windows broken and "kike whore," "nigger lover," "bitch," "shut up" and a half-finished swastika spray painted on the vehicle.

Dunn also told police that $1,700 worth of personal property had been taken from the car.

In initial news stories, Dunn, a 39-year-old Caucasian woman, was said to be converting from Catholicism to Judaism. As time went on, this aspect became increasingly vague, changing from "undergoing conversion" to "considering conversion" to "a possibility of conversion."

"No one seems to have any firsthand knowledge of this matter," said education professor Jack Schuster, a faculty leader on the campus Hillel Council.

The day following the incident, classes were canceled for anti-racism and pro-diversity demonstrations on campus and at the other six private colleges and universities that make up the Claremont Colleges consortium.

The regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) contacted college officials and the Jewish campus community to offer counseling and assistance.

Rabbi Leslie Bergson, Hillel Council director, reported that many hitherto indifferent Jewish students showed up at Hillel, and that the near-dormant Jewish Student Union was planning new activities.

One week later, during a campus vacation break, another bombshell occurred. Claremont police announced that two witnesses had "positively identified the victim as vandalizing her own vehicle. Additionally, interviews with the alleged victim revealed inconsistencies in her statements regarding the incident."

The FBI and district attorney's office entered the case. Dunn consistently denied the police charges.

During the trial, the jury was not asked to decided whether Dunn had vandalized her own car, but rather if she had filed false reports with the police and her insurance company.

After the guilty verdict, Gary Lincenberg, Dunn's attorney, said that he intended to appeal the verdict, because the judge had barred crucial evidence.

As student president of the Hillel Council, D'ror Chankin-Gould, 20, had been one of the organizers of the early anti-racism protests. Dunn's conviction, he said, "doesn't change the fact that we did the right thing. We responded vigorously to an anti-Semitic slur, and we can be proud of that."

Amanda Susskind, regional ADL director, noted that "fake hate crimes undercut what we do; they represent a kind of secondary victimization. We did get some letters saying, 'You Jews made it all up.'"

"But did we over-react? No, we had to react," Susskind continued. "And we are pleased that law enforcement took this very seriously, first after the incident, itself, and then in prosecuting Dunn." -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

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