OAKLAND, Calif. - Hate crime charges have been dropped against the man accused of attacking an Oakland Chinatown leader.
In exchange, suspect James Lee Ramsey will plead no contest to assault.
At Lincoln Square Park in Oakland Chinatown Thursday evening, there was an outdoor gathering that brought more than two hundred people together.
It was a celebration of the Mid Autumn Festival, an important Chinese cultural event.
Community members expressed disappointment and concern when they learned that the hate-crime charge has been dropped in the high-profile case.
They say that's why events such as this are more important than ever.
"With a lot of the Asian crimes and things that are going on in the area and around the world and country. It's really good to have a safe environment," says Melanie Lombrana of Oakland
Carl Chan, the Chinatown official who was attacked, says a safe environment is his goal.
The president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce said he supports the plea bargain that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office made with Ramsey because the hate-crime allegation is hard to prove.
"Definitely, I'm not happy about dropping it. That's for sure. However because of the legal system itself, to make that enhancement makes it so much more difficult," says Chan.
However, Chan did not mention that Public Defender Brendon Woods told the Oaklandside earlier that there is no evidence, besides an inconsistent claim from Chan, that Ramsey was motivated by racial bias. Woods believes the district attorney overcharged the case and said that what Ramsey needs is mental health treatment, not a lengthy prison term. Woods noted that Ramsey was diagnosed many years ago with serious mental illnesses.
On April 29, Chan was injured after being attacked from behind while walking along Broadway and 8th.
He says Ramsey made a racial slur before the attack. But the Oaklandside also obtained a copy of the original police report that Chan filed and the Chinatown leader did not tell police that Ramsey used any racial epithets, which prosecutors would need to charge a hate crime.
Ramsey, 25, pleaded no contest to assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury in exchange for the hate crime allegation being dismissed.
"As long as he's receiving help and not going out into the community hurting people. I think that's the important thing," says Chan.
The district attorney's office has the option to ask the judge to sentence Ramsey to serve his time in a secured mental health facility. He faces up to four years in state prison.
Moving forward, Asian Americans say the focus is on protecting the vulnerable.
"It definitely kinda makes me worried. I actually volunteer for one of the groups that patrol," says Chris who declined to give his last name.
"Making sure that we have safety ambassadors in place. Really work on prevention. Making sure that in general that those incidents are fewer and far between," says Tiffany Eng with Friends of Lincoln Park Square, one of the groups who organized the outdoor festival.
Chan says he plans to work with political leaders to make changes that will make it easier to prosecute hate crimes.
"People truly committing hate crimes should be facing the consequences," says Chan.
Ramsey is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4.
Chan tells KTVU he plans to make a victim impact statement and ask that Ramsey get treatment while incarcerated.