Two More Jail Terms In '69 Riots Case

Pennsylvania National Guard and State Police during 1969 race riots, York, Pennsylvania AP

Two black men were sentenced to prison Monday for the shooting of a white police officer during 1969 race riots, receiving the same terms two white men had gotten last year for the other riot-related killing.

York County President Judge John H. Chronister sentenced Stephen Freeland to nine to 19 years, and co-defendant Leon Wright to 4½ to 10 years in the death of rookie Patrolman Henry Schaad. The sentencings ended the second and last murder trial stemming from the race riots 34 years ago that left two people dead and dozens injured.

Freeland and Wright, who were convicted last month, had faced up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

In October, two white men were convicted in the slaying of Lillie Belle Allen, a 27-year-old black woman from South Carolina. Robert Messersmith was sentenced to nine to 19 years in prison and Gregory Neff to 4½ to 10 years. Seven other white men pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser charges, and the city's former mayor, Charlie Robertson, was acquitted.

Schaad, 22, was mortally wounded by gunfire July 18, 1969, the second day of rioting, when he and two other officers in an armored police truck drove through a black neighborhood. He died two weeks later and remains the only York officer killed in the line of duty.

Schaad's family had asked Chronister to impose the maximum sentences. But Barry Schaad, the victim's older brother, said afterward that "we were prepared to accept this, and we're going to accept this."

Attorneys for Freeland, 51, and Wright, 54, said they would appeal.

"I've been convicted illegally from every standpoint that can be imagined," Freeland said Monday.

Freeland was accused of firing the fatal shot and Wright was accused of being among a group of black men who fired at the truck.

Allen was shot to death three days after the Schaad shooting, while she and her family were trying to drive through a predominantly white neighborhood.

Hundreds of state troopers and National Guardsmen were finally called in to quell the riots.

A state police investigation and a federal civil rights probe both ended without charges decades ago. Both cases remained dormant for years before prosecutors, saying they had new information, reopened them in 1999. The first arrests were made in 2001.

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