Arraignment for four St. Croix women charged with assault of a transgender woman was delayed a day while the judge hears arguments about whether or not the alleged attack constitutes a hate crime.
As the hearing was to begin for Victoria Parilla, 25, Angelica Perez, 20, Crystal Perez, 27 and Cristina Perez, 26, Assistant Attorney General Katie Klein said she wanted to amend probable cause to add a hate motivated crime aspect. Judge Miguel Camacho directed her to bring forth testimony to support her motion.
Klein said she was happy to enter testimony and called the arresting officer to the stand. She pointed out that the homophobic slurs recorded on the fact sheets point to the probable cause.
Officer Jodyne Ambrose, who arrested the four during the fight on July 7, testified that the victim told her the four women told her to undress “because he is a homosexual and carries himself as a female,” during the altercation. This was also stated in the police report, she said.
The incident at the Walter I.M. Hodge Housing Community began with words exchanged between the victim and Parilla. It is not clear who started the argument or what was said during that time. Parilla said the victim came at her with a wrench in her hand as she was getting in her car with her baby, as if to hit the car.
The other three just happened to come on the scene after an outing, Ambrose said. They admitted carrying a piece of wood and beer bottle, which were seen being used as weapons in a video of the altercation. There was no sound with the video.
Defense attorneys argued that gender, race, age, disability or sexual identification must be the reason behind an attack to constitute a hate crime.
Judge Camacho pointed out there were two different accounts of the incident but it sounded like the fight started before the homophobic slurs. To be a hate crime, a crime must be motivated by discrimination.
“From what I’ve heard today it appears this argument does not start based on the victim’s sexual orientation. The argument got out of hand after the sisters showed up, ” Comacho said, denying the prosecutor’s amendment.
The arraignment was moved to Friday at 9 a.m.