A gay undocumented immigrant living in Brooklyn says that he was the victim of a hate crime–but he’s the one facing assault charges and deportation. Authorities, however, suspect that his story is not so straightforward.
The New York Daily News reported in an April 7 story that 23-year-old Ricardo Muñiz has been placed under arrest following an incident that took place last July. The suspect’s mother, Jorgelina Aguirre, says that her son came to the U.S. to escape persecution in Mexico due to his sexuality. “He’s there in jail unjustly,” she told the media. Aguirre planned to speak at a press conference on April 7, where she intended to issue a plea to the district attorney of Brooklyn on behalf of her son. The article said that Aguirre has won support from the group Make the Road New York, an organization that describes itself on its web site as “promot[ing] economic justice, equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers through community and electoral organizing, strategic policy advocacy, leadership development, youth and adult education, and high quality legal and support services.”
According to Muñiz, he and a male friend were dancing at a night spot last summer when another patron of the establishment, described as “an older man,” began to make harassing, homophobic comments. When Muñiz and his friends left the bar at 4:30 in the morning, the older man and another man began to trail after them. One of the men yelled a threat, Muñiz said, and a tussle broke out between the two men and his friends.
Muñiz claimed that when he tried to break up the fracas, he was also attacked.
“I intervened, telling the younger man to calm down,” Muñiz claimed. “That’s when he took off his belt, wrapped it around his hand and attacked me with the buckle.” Muñiz also said that the older man attacked him with a baseball bat. The police said that upon responding, they found the older man, whom they identified as Jose Cruz, was in such bad shape that he needed to be put into an induced coma; Muñiz accounted for this by saying that the man had fallen during the scuffle.
According to police, Muñiz gave the wrong phone number when he reported the attack. Muñiz was arrested two weeks later.
“He was the victim of a hate crime,” said Deron Castro, the attorney representing Muñiz. “He was the one who was being attacked. He should never have been arrested in this case.”
“He suffered discrimination in Mexico, and we wanted to come to the U.S. so he could live confidently and be open with his sexuality,” Aguirre said of her son. “I thought that this was a fair country, but it isn’t.”
Brooklyn has seen several purported hate crimes in recent months. As reported in a March 10 EDGE article, five men assaulted a lone 22-year-old victim in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, in what the media described as a “bias attack” on March 2. The gang reportedly yelled anti-gay slurs as they beat the man, a lone pedestrian who was walking through the gentrified neighborhood at about 8:00 p.m.
City officials also expressed their concern, with openly lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn describing herself as “appalled and sickened” to hear of the attack. “New York City’s greatest strength is our diversity,” Quinn added. “All New Yorkers should be free to walk our streets without fear of being attacked for who they are or who they are perceived to be.”
“Carroll Gardens is a diverse community,” said Brad Lander, a city councilmember. “We have no room for hate in our community. We embrace every race, religion and sexual orientation. We will not tolerate hate and violence in Carroll Gardens or anywhere else in New York City.”
“In a world as diverse as ours, we cannot tolerate violence based on actual or perceived identity, because if we do we are all vulnerable,” stated the The Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Campaign.
The Carroll Gardens attack was one more in a string of anti-gay bias attacks that have taken place in New York. In December of 2008, Ecuadorian immigrant Jose Sucuzhañay was set upon and beaten by four baseball-bat wielding assailants who mistakenly thought he was gay; Sucuzhañay died from his injuries. Last year, the city re-named a street corner in his honor.
Two men, Daniel Aleman, 26, and Daniel Rodriguez, Jr., 21, were accused of beating 49-year-old Jack Price nearly to death in an attack last Oct. 9, on the corner of College Point and 18th Avenues in Queens; that attack inspired a march against hate.
A transgender woman, Leslie Mora, 31, was attacked by two men in Jackson Heights last June. Gilberto Ortiz, 32, and Trinidad Tapia, 19, were charged in the crime. In July, Carmella Etienne was allegedly attacked by Nathaniel Mims and Rasheed Thomas, who reportedly assaulted her with rocks and bottles.