District Attorney George Gascón said Thursday he was “extremely disappointed” in a judge’s ruling that two men who allegedly robbed and assaulted a transgender woman should not face felony hate-crime charges.
Instead, Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan on Wednesday let stand misdemeanor hate-crime charges that Gascón’s office filed against Lionel Jackson, 32, and Maurice Perry, 37, in connection with the April 1 nighttime attack of the 20-year-old woman. Chan also ordered them to stand trial on assault and robbery charges, both felonies.
“We strongly disagree with the ruling,” Gascón said at a news conference that he maintained was “not about politics.” Gascón is running in November to keep his post as district attorney, and he has made prosecuting hate crimes a priority.
Gascón said the transgender community had been marginalized. He plans to refile the felony hate-crime allegations.
“If we’re serious about being a community that is a community of tolerance, and a community of equality for all, then we need to start treating all of our citizens with equality,” Gascón said.
Prosecutor Victor Hwang said Jackson and Perry robbed the woman of her cellphone at the BART station at 16th and Mission streets, then punched her several times in the face, knocking her to the ground.
Hwang said the men initially approached her asking, “What’s good, mama?” But then one said, “That’s not a bitch.” During the robbery, they shouted gay epithets, Hwang said, and as they were walking away, a witness heard one say, “I hate men dressed as women.”
Perry’s attorney, David Harrison, said Thursday he was confident another judge also would dismiss the felony hate-crime allegations.
“Judge Chan heard all the evidence,” Harrison said. “He’s a thoughtful and intelligent judge. He did what any judge who heard this case would have done ... he found that the evidence didn’t exist that warranted the charge.”
A felony hate-crime allegation can add between one and three years in prison to a potential sentence, while a misdemeanor hate crime would add up to a year in county jail, according to Hwang.