San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has announced that Joseph Benjamin, a man who allegedly yelled racial slurs at Asian women and threw eggs at a passenger of a San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) bus, will be charged with hate crimes and four counts of battery.
The decision comes two months after Asian American writer Michelle Young tweeted a video of the incident, which went viral on social media.
In the video posted on Feb. 16, the 44-year-old suspect can be seen harassing Young and other passengers on a Muni bus. He begins throwing eggs at another passenger who, according to Young, stepped in after the suspect had yelled “stupid Chinese bitch” at her and another Asian woman.
Young, who shared the video publicly to raise awareness about hate crimes against Asian Americans, posted a Twitter thread on April 19, stating that “Hate crimes against Asian Americans are real.”
“I shared my story publicly (and two similar attacks before) in the hopes that there can be more general awareness among bystanders & maybe even have some effect on transit policies & policing of hate crimes,” she wrote.
“I would like the Asian community in SF to know that I am aware many of them have had similar experiences & I empathize with them. I am glad to use my platform as a journalist & author to raise awareness of these types of attacks,” she added.
Jenkins stated on Thursday that the DA’s Office has evidence that the suspect was motivated by an animosity towards Asians.
“Racially motivated crimes are unacceptable and will be prosecuted,” Jenkins was quoted as saying. “Hate crimes profoundly impact victims and are toxic to our community that strives to be a safe haven that is open and welcoming to all people.”
Benjamin has also been charged in a separate incident that involved him spitting on an Asian American Muni driver.
According to the San Francisco Police Department, Benjamin was arrested on April 14 after he was recognized by officers based on a police bulletin depiction.
After his arrest and court arraignment, he is set to be out of custody on Friday under supervision. He is, however, required to stay away from his victims and specific Muni bus lines.
In a statement, the defendant’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Leo Fissel, argued that Young’s viral video did not capture the full incident, making it difficult to make a complete judgment.