A New Yorker faces a hate crime charge after video of a rant on a train surfaced online.
Edward Ruggiero, 58, was charged Wednesday with third-degree menacing as a hate crime, and second-degree aggravated harassment for a April 19 incident on the Long Island Railroad, according to the Queens County District Attorney. He threatened to “smack” his victim, prosecutors said. If convicted, he could spend up to a year in jail, and even a $1,000 fine.
His alleged victim is identified as a 25-year-old woman. According to prosecutors, they were riding the Long Island Railroad on April 19, between 9:53 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. The train was going through Queens, between the Forest Hills and Jamaica Stations. Ruggiero approached the seated woman, “raised his hand toward her and stated ‘I’ll smack the [expletive deleted] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive deleted],'” prosecutors claimed.
Ruggiero also screamed at the woman, calling her a “black monkey,” and telling her to “Get off at Jamaica. Get off in the ghetto.” He made the sounds that monkeys make, said the Queens District Attorneys Office.
Ruggiero was identified as the man in viral video posted to Facebook. The woman who posted it, Aneesa Janat Rafeek, said the man was complaining about a black woman on the phone. As seen on video, the man curses at the woman, calls her a “monkey,” calls her a “loud-mouth bitch,” and she disputes whether she even knows who her parents are. (Law&Crime confirmed with the Queens D.A.’s office that this is the same 25-year-old woman mentioned in the statement.)
“I can’t listen to your black ass no more,” the man says. Her also chews out a second woman who gets involved.
The video didn’t show the individual getting in the woman’s face to scream at her, according to Rafeek. She also said a friend of hers had had a similar experience with this guy.
The defendant was arraigned Wednesday and released without bail, according to NBC New York. He told the outlet, “That wasn’t even me.”
Ruggiero’s attorney contradicted his client.
“No question what he said was morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable, foul-mouthed, insulting,” lawyer Joseph Donatelli told the outlet. “I just don’t know whether or not it rolls to the level of a crime. The one thing we have a right to be in this country is to be a jerk.”
Ruggiero was sorry for what he said, and had just “lost it on the train,” Donatelli claimed. The argument had started not because of the woman’s race, but because of her phone conversation.
“I think he lost it when — again, I only have limited information — I saw when he was talking about her being a loudmouth, she says, ‘Your mother is a loudmouth,'” said Donatelli. “Some Italian American males are very sensitive when it comes to their mother. And when you talk about their mother, their gloves come off.” He added, “Again, it’s no excuse. I’m not making excuses for his behavior. My question is whether it rolls to a crime.”
[Screengrab via Aneesa Janat Rafeek]