Costa Mesa woman sentenced for Huntington Beach hate crime

A 25-year-old Costa Mesa woman pleaded guilty Friday to violating the civil rights of a Latino man in connection with a skinhead attack last year in Huntington Beach and sentenced to 180 days in jail.

Erin Lee Brooks was also placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay undetermined restitution to the victim, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Katz said. Part of her plea deal also requires her to take a class on tolerance at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Katz said.

"Now that's justice -- to make a skinhead do that,'' Katz said.

After Brooks also pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg dismissed charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. A hearing on what restitution Brooks will make was scheduled for March 19.

Brooks was not a major participant in the July 3 attack on Sergio Hernandez, Katz said.

"She was a very passive participant,'' Katz said, adding she just went along for the ride with her friends as they randomly chose Hernandez for a beating because of his ethnicity.

"She never got out of the truck,'' Katz said.

However, there was evidence Brooks was cheering on the attackers.

Bret MacDonald Hicks, 30, of Riverside, Michael Aaron Powell, 21, of Anaheim, and Brian Charles Hanson, 27, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to one felony count each of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and hate-crime battery causing injury with sentencing enhancements for committing a hate crime in concert with others on Dec. 18. The plea bargains offered by Bromberg came over Katz's objections.

Hicks also admitted to sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury. Hicks was convicted for vehicle theft in 1998 and committing a hate crime in 2005. Bromberg sentenced Hicks to 10 years in state prison. Prosecutors requested 15 to 17 years in prison, Katz said.

Powell admitted to a sentencing enhancement for committing a crime while out on bail for another pending felony crime. He was out on bail on an unrelated aggravated assault gang case when he committed the hate crime, Katz said. Bromberg sentenced him to five years in state prison, though prosecutors were seeking a 10-year prison sentence.

Hanson has five prior convictions for robbery in 1999 and robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and two attempted robberies in 2000. Bromberg sentenced him to 11 years and eight months in prison. Katz wanted Hanson to receive a life sentence.

Brooks could have faced up to 23 years and eight months in prison if she had been convicted at trial, Katz said.

About 11:50 p.m., July 3, Hicks, Powell, and Hanson drove in a red pickup truck in an alley in predominantly Latino neighborhood hunting for a victim with Brooks along for the ride.

When they saw Sergio Hernandez outside a home in Huntington Beach talking to friends they stopped and Hicks, Powell and Hanson got out of the truck, ran over to him and started attacking him, Katz said.

Hernandez's friends ran to help him while another friend called police, prompting Hicks, Powell and Hanson to flee, Katz said. Huntington Beach police arrested them about 10 minutes later and recovered a bloody knife in the truck, Katz said.

Hernandez suffered stab wounds to his chest.