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Angry Outburst by Howard Beach Witness


Timothy Grimes, one of three black victims in the Howard Beach racial attack, exploded in anger yesterday while testifying against five white teenagers in the case, just as he did in another trial last fall.

Grimes, testifying despite concerns over his emotional stability, spat at defense attorney Todd Greenberg, muttered an obscenity and swatted a court microphone out of the way before Criminal Court Justice Thomas Demakos hastily called a recess.

Grimes had been undergoing cross examination about events leading up to the attack by a dozen white youths on Grimes and two companions in the Howard Beach section of Queens.

He was testifying over the objections of a Legal Aid attorney, Stephen B. Grundstein, who said a psychiatrist who evaluated Grimes earlier in the day had determined that he was under too much pressure and was “unpredictable.”

But prosecutor Edward Boyar said he was assured by the psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Weidenbacher, that testifying “will not damage him permanently.”

The 20-year-old Brooklyn man was arrested in Coney Island on Monday on a Virginia warrant charging him with shooting one of his brothers, Tommy Grimes, last month. Tommy Grimes’ wounds cost him his sight in one eye.

Another brother, Charles Grimes, said yesterday that Timothy “hasn’t been right” mentally since the Howard Beach incident on Dec. 20, 1986.

Under questioning by Boyar, Grimes appeared dejected and vacant, but was answering questions calmly and without incident.

He lost his composure after a series of questions about a sports car Grimes said the three black men encountered shortly before the attack.

Grimes testified that he yelled to two women in the car, asking them for a ride. “Was it a two-seater?” Greenberg asked.

“Yes,” Grimes answered.

“So the three of you were going to fit in the back seat?” the lawyer demanded.

It was at that point, even as Demakos admonished Greenberg about the tone of the question, that Grimes erupted.

In the incident at issue, a dozen white youths allegedly attacked Grimes and two other black men outside a pizzeria, chasing one of the blacks to his death on a nearby highway. Three of four whites youths tried last fall were convicted of manslaughter and assault. The defense rested yesterday in the trial of five other youths charged with lesser crimes.

The prosecution had rested last week, but reserved the option of calling Grimes to testify, as he did in the first trial. However, prosecutors said they had been unable to find Grimes before his arrest in the June 20 shooting of his brother outside an aunt’s home in Winchester, Va.