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2 men charged with hate crime in assault at O.C. park

April 8, 2011 |  6:25 pm

Two men were facing hate crime and assault charges Friday for allegedly yelling anti-Semitic slurs while beating and robbing a man in a Coto de Caza park, Orange County prosecutors said.

The 23-year-old victim, whose name was not released, suffered a broken jaw, nose and eye socket; severe facial bruising; cuts; cracked ribs, and a concussion, authorities said. The assault occurred about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested Matthew Gregory Branstetter and Nolan John Wickham, both 19-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita residents. Each was charged with aggravated assault and second-degree robbery with potentially harsher sentencing for committing a hate crime, prosecutors said.

The suspects -- along with a third accomplice who has not yet been arrested -- allegedly demanded money from the victim, who told them he had none. They allegedly went on to kick and punch him while yelling anti-Semitic slurs, and stole his jacket and cellphone, prosecutors said.

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-- Michael Finnegan

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