Page 2 of 3

They both are proud of the school's status as a magnet school, and feel that the school's administration should be frank and open in explaining the disciplinary actions that have taken place since the riot.

The parents of two Hispanic youths agreed to have Frietz act in their behalf with the school administration. Neither can understand English, and without Frietz's help, they would be unable to cope with the situation.

"My goal in this is to see that the kids get due process in their hearings. If they are guilty, they should be punished. But they shouldn't be singled out and tossed aside if there is no evidence against them."

At first, Frietz's only clients were Jorge and Arturo Hernandez, both suspended for fighting with two black youths. In checking out the reports, Frietz found they were supposed to have attacked a black youth named Clemmie Cheatham.

Frietz knew only that Clemmie Cheatham lived in the Vista projects neighborhood at 16th Street and Roeser. Frietz scoured the phone book and searched the neighborhood in his car before finding Cheatham.

Frietz asked Cheatham if he could identify the two Hispanic youths he had been fighting with on campus that day. Cheatham agreed to meet Jorge and Arturo face to face to make an identification.

Once Cheatham saw the brothers, he was able to tell Frietz they were definitely not the two Hispanics who attacked him on campus.

Frietz brought Cheatham as a witness to a hearing at the school, where he testified that the Hernandez brothers were not guilty.

School officials were angered by Cheatham's testimony. They expected him to be their star prosecution witness. Frietz says that one school official even accused him of paying Cheatham to change his story.

Now Frietz is also representing both Cheatham and his 17-year-old sister, Shannon. They have been suspended for the rest of the school year for fighting.

School officials have allowed Jorge and Arturo back into school temporarily, but they face further action that could lead to their suspensions, too.

"People don't understand that a suspension from school at this point in their lives could ruin the lives of these kids," Frietz says. "They may never be able to make it up. What chance do they have if they don't graduate from high school?"

Frietz says the Hernandez brothers are also accused of leaving classes and going home without permission. But there was so much confusion on campus that day that many students report that police ordered them to go home.

Frietz finds it difficult to understand the attitude of school officials.
"When I went to see Dr. Moody Jackson, the principal, he first wanted to know why I had an interest in this case. He said these kids had no right to have a guardian angel like me pop up to save them."

Frietz's interest is in the sanctity of due process, a constitutional precedent set in the 1930s as a result of the Scottsboro case, in which seven black youths were arrested in Alabama and charged with raping two white women.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the youths' convictions on the grounds that the blacks had been denied due process of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment because they did not have effective legal representation at their trial.

Frietz is striving to see that the four youngsters he is representing get a fair hearing and that the school authorities present real evidence against them or drop the cases.

Last weekend, Jorge Hernandez and Clemmie Cheatham sat in Frietz's living room watching the Notre Dame-Florida State football game on television.

"All I remember about the fight," Cheatham said, "is that some heavyset guy with a ponytail hit me. I started back to defend myself; that's all I did. I never started anything."

He tells what he remembers of the riot:
"I saw this black guy and a Mexican guy getting ready to fight," Cheatham says. "There was a security guard standing in between them. I saw a black guy pick up a garbage can and hit the security guard upside the head. The security guard ran after him, and I ran down to see what was happening, and somebody hit me from behind, and I turned around, and we started fighting.

"Then the police started telling everybody to leave campus, and we started going out the front gate onto Seventh Street, and the black guys were beating up on those Mexican guys every time they went out onto Seventh Street. I kept hearing rocks and bottles being thrown back and forth."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Fitzpatrick