Man charged in alleged hate crime attacks on Muni buses
SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco man was charged for separate alleged hate crime attacks aboard Muni buses, including an egg-throwing incident that was widely shared on social media, the district attorney's office said on Thursday.
Joseph Benjamin, 44, was charged with four counts of battery on a transit employee or passenger in connection with two separate incidents on Muni buses, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. He was also charged with three counts of violating civil rights.
Prosecutors said in the first incident on Feb. 13, Benjamin allegedly spit on an Asian American bus driver while making disparaging remarks.
In the other incident on Feb. 16, Benjamin was seen on video throwing eggs at two Asian American Muni passengers who he had been harassing, authorities said. He also threw eggs at a third passenger who had intervened to stop the harassment.
Michelle Young, who recorded the assault, detailed the ordeal on Twitter. Young, who was visiting from New York City, was riding on 38 line bus along Geary Street when the incident unfolded.
She said that a man got onto the bus with cartons of eggs and started hurling racial epithets at her and another Asian woman seated next to her.
"He was saying racial expletives, like ‘you stupid Chinese (expletive),' probably at least two times, and both of us chose to not look up or engage because he seemed pretty unhinged." Young told KTVU.
Young said when another passenger stepped in, the alleged perpetrator started throwing eggs at him.
"The man threw the egg at him top speed, and then said 'I'm getting off the bus!" she recalled.
Young said the egging didn't stop there ass the alleged assailant circled back.
"He ran from the corner alongside the bus, saw me, looked at me and then decided to throw another egg at full speed right into the window. And if you look at the video you can see that even though I was behind the window I was really startled," she said.
The transit agency responded to Young directly on Twitter, calling the attack "unacceptable."
Muni issued a statement after the two separate attacks that occurred on its buses.
"We are committed to doing everything we can to stop the racist attacks on the AAPI community that have been on the increase over the past few years. Just this week alone, Muni riders, staff and colleagues from other transit agencies been victims of this deplorable behavior," the transit agency said. Adding, "Any harassment or abuse against our passengers and staff is utterly unacceptable. We will investigate & prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any individuals responsible for these heinous attacks."
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said, although the charges are misdemeanors, she is staying true to her promise to take hate based crimes seriously.
"That is absolutely something we will not tolerate in San Francisco. Neither the behavior, nor the fact that this seemed to be motivated by his hatred toward a certain group of people," Jenkins said.
Benjamin was arraigned on Thursday. He was released from custody.
If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.