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Key Witness in Bensonhurst Trial Arrested on Drug Charges

May 24, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The young woman who testified at the Bensonhurst racial attack trial was arrested on drug possession charges after she was accused by police of subway fare evasion, a transit spokesman said Thursday.

Gina Feliciano, 18, was arrested Wednesday night after two plainclothes officers saw her and a male companion go through a subway gate in Brooklyn reserved for Transit Authority employees and police, said spokesman Al O’Leary.

Feliciano’s companion fled, O’Leary said, and was still at large Thursday. Arresting officers said 15 vials of a substance they believe to be crack cocaine fell from Feliciano’s purse as she was searching for identification.

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Feliciano, an admitted drug user, was the prosecution’s key witness at the dual trial of Keith Mondello and Joseph Fama, the first two defendants tried in the racially motivated killing of 16-year-old Yusuf Hawkins. The case has inflamed racial tensions in the city.

Hawkins was shot to death in August when he and two friends went to the mostly white neighborhood of Bensonhurst to look at a used car. A mob of whites allegedly mistook them for friends of Feliciano.

The defense charged during the trial that Feliciano incited the killing by telling Mondello that a group of her black and Hispanic friends were coming to the neighborhood to fight.

Fama was convicted of murder and other charges last week. Mondello was acquitted on murder and manslaughter charges but found guilty of riot, assault, menacing, harassment and weapons possession.

Pat Clark, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, said Feliciano’s arrest would not deter prosecutors from seeking her testimony in upcoming trials of six defendants yet to be tried.

O’Leary said Feliciano was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and theft of services. The drug charge carries a prison term of one to seven years upon conviction.