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Vigilante justice has a price

E ARLIER THIS MONTH, a Kensington mob pummeled and held Jose Carrasquillo, who police accused of raping an 11-year-old girl on her way to school.

Family members of a girl allegedly raped by a neighbor.  To the left is a man who beat the suspect, but has been prosecuted for it. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Family members of a girl allegedly raped by a neighbor. To the left is a man who beat the suspect, but has been prosecuted for it. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)Read more

E ARLIER THIS MONTH, a Kensington mob pummeled and held Jose Carrasquillo, who police accused of raping an 11-year-old girl on her way to school.

Meanwhile, in another case last year, Antwione Hough and his relatives beat and held a man accused of raping and impregnating his 14-year-old niece.

In the Kensington case, two men from that mob split an $11,500 reward for what police lauded as community justice.

Hough essentially did the same thing as the two men, but he was charged with a series of felonies and has spent more than $10,000 on bail and court fees.

The difference in the handling of two cases in which people took the law into their hands has left those familiar with Hough's plight asking the obvious: Why?

"Where's the justice my son gets for protecting his own?" asked Hough's mother, Roma McCain, 52.

"I wasn't running around like a cowboy," said Hough, 38. "This is my niece. She's like a daughter to me. Seeing someone else rewarded for what I did . . . these guys were caught on tape beating this guy up."

The District Attorney's Office, which approved charges against Hough, declined to comment.

However, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey acknowledged citizen justice can often be a murky issue.

"I think you have to look at what's reasonable in terms of actions taken by members of the public," Ramsey said.

"If an individual is wanted by the police for a felony, and you restrain him, how much force is too much? Every case is different."

Suffering in silence

Hough says his niece hasn't been the same since the rape last July.

It was a breezy afternoon. Relatives milled around inside the house on Godfrey Avenue near Rising Sun in Lawndale, while the teenager sat on the front steps playing, said the girl's mother, Roma "Mimi" Hough, 33.

Next door, Emmanuel Figue-roa, 24, emerged from the house and told the teen that his girlfriend's daughter wanted to play with her inside, Mimi Hough said.

The girl went in, but there was no one else inside. In the living room, Figueroa told her how beautiful she was and, Hough said, began to take her pants off. She tried to fight him off, but he threw her onto the couch and raped her, Hough said.

He warned her not to tell anyone and she ran out of the house, Hough said. Weeks went by and the teen told no one of the attack.

But about four months later, during a class field trip, she fainted and was rushed to a hospital, where it was revealed that she was pregnant.

Family members were stunned.

"She's not one of those fast girls," said the victim's grandmother Roma McCain, of South Jersey. "She is so sheltered."

Authorities were notified and the teen, who relatives say has a learning disability, underwent a two-day procedure to terminate the pregnancy in November.

"She was scared and [didn't] know what was happening to her body," said the victim's aunt Tatica Hough. "She was complaining that her stomach was hurting. She didn't know why her breasts were leaking."

Police later went to Figueroa's house and asked him to come in for questioning the next day, but he disappeared, the family said.

Contacted this week, Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit declined to comment on the case, except to say that DNA results are still pending.

The attack

On Nov. 17, Antwione Hough was with family members for a game night when they learned that Figueroa - who had a warrant out for his arrest - was staying at a house on Dungan Street near Erie Avenue in Juniata Park.

Hough and his relatives went there and waited.

Eventually, Figueroa pulled up, parked the car and entered the residence. Moments later, he re-emerged and got back into the car. That's when Hough swerved his truck in front of Figueroa's car, blocking him in.

Figueroa got out of the car.

"As soon as he seen me, he said, 'It wasn't me! It wasn't me!' " said Hough.

Hough and his relatives surrounded Figueroa, punching and kicking him repeatedly.

Afterward, Hough shoved Figueroa into the cab of his truck and, with his cousin at the wheel, drove back to his sister's house.

"I held him between my legs in a bear hug," he said. "I was 75 percent sure it was him; I wanted to be 100 percent."

He dropped Figueroa off at the house and left, he said. Tatica Hough, who arrived later, found her mother, Roma McCain, and sister, Mimi, sitting on top of Figueroa, who was on the living- room floor, writhing in pain, blood gushing from his head.

" 'No, Mimi, no! Mimi, it wasn't me!' " Figueroa pleaded, according to Tatica Hough.

Meanwhile, the rape victim sat in an upstairs bedroom with her younger cousins, crying.

When police arrived, Figueroa was arrested and charged with statutory sexual assault, forcible rape, unlawful restraint and related offenses after the victim identified him as he sat in the back of an ambulance. His next court date is set for July 1.

Later that night, police raided Antwione Hough's home on Hellerman Street near Erdrick, in the Northeast, and arrested him for the assault.

During the search, police confiscated an old, inoperable shotgun, and more than a pound of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, said Debra Reilly of East Detectives.

She also said witnesses of the attack reported seeing Hough fire at Figueroa. Yet police found no gun or shell casings at the scene.

The car Figueroa had been driving was found at the home of one of Hough's relatives, police said.

Hough was charged with kidnapping, assault, disorderly conduct and drug and weapons offenses.

A trial date has been scheduled for July 24.

Hough's attorney, Peter Bowers, said the charges against his client - and Figueroa's allegations of being shot at and abducted - are outrageous.

"Antwione Hough did what so many of us would have done," he said.

Detective Reilly, who said she sympathized with Hough, said he had taken matters too far.

Hough "thought, 'Police couldn't get him [Figueroa] so [he decided] I'm going to take the law into my own hands," Reilly said. "You just can't do that."

But Bowers called the police response to Hough's incident "unfair."

"The whole thing is a little inconsistent," he said referring to the Kensington case.

"You'd think [Hough] would also get a reward. Can you imagine getting arrested for doing the right thing?"

Hough - a recent trade-school graduate who served in the Army Reserves for 10 years - was described by relatives as the "protector in the family."

"My brother stood up for all of us," said Tatica Hough. "He took it on for all of us."

"I think my brother is a hero," added Mimi Hough, the victim's mom.

Even Hough acknowledges that his actions have come at a high price.

The strain of keeping up with lawyer fees and his mortgage and supporting his family have drained him financially, he said.

"Sometimes I ask myself, 'Was it worth it?' " he said. "Then every time I see my niece, I say, 'Hell yeah, it's worth it!' " *

Staff wr*ter Dav*d Gambacorta contr*buted to th*s art*cle.