A California judge has dropped hate crime charges against a man accused of attacking a Filipino American family in North Hollywood last year.
Nicholas Weber will instead proceed to trial to face only two counts of felony battery, which he pleaded not guilty to in July.
The incident, which was caught on video, occurred at a McDonald’s drive-thru on Victory Boulevard on May 13. Weber allegedly rear-ended the vehicle of Nerissa Roque and her daughter, Patricia Roque, resulting in an altercation.
Weber allegedly called the mother-and-daughter duo “so Asian,” used racial slurs and threatened to kill them in a mock Asian accent.
The conflict escalated when he allegedly tried to physically get to Patricia but was stopped by her father, Gabriel Roque, who was called to the scene.
Weber allegedly punched 60-year-old Gabriel to the ground, leaving him with a broken rib. He also allegedly choked Nerissa when she tried to stop the assault.
The attack has since prompted calls for justice for the family. Weber was arrested on June 16, 2022, but refused to attend his arraignment thrice.
On July 11, Weber pleaded not guilty to two counts of battery — which included a felony and a misdemeanor — with hate crime enhancements. As of April 18, he was facing two counts of felony battery without the hate crime charges.
Judge Neetu S. Badhan-Smith stated that while Weber had made “offensive and vulgar statements” against the family, the incident remained a “general intent crime,” according to the San Fernando Valley Sun.
She cited the 10- to 15-minute duration between the alleged use of racial slurs and the alleged physical assault, and noted that Weber no longer used such slurs after coming back.
In the video, Weber was also seen pushing a bystander before engaging with the family. This also influenced the judge’s call to drop the hate enhancements.
The family and their supporters voiced their frustration outside the courtroom.
“It’s really disappointing how we’ve been treated so far and how the justice system is treating this case when it’s really obvious this is a hate crime,” said family member Patrick Roque, as per ABS-CBN News. “It’s really obvious from the video that it was a hate crime.”
Meanwhile, Filipino American group Anakbayan USA said that what they witnessed “up there was not justice.”
Weber is scheduled to return to court on May 1. Without hate crime enhancements, he faces a reduced sentence if convicted.