A gay man was called a “f****t” while leaving a store on Warren Street in Hudson Monday, which started an argument, according to the victim’s friend, eventually leading to the victim being badly beaten.
The alleged assailant was arrested at about 6 p.m. Tuesday while hiding near a wooded area in Hudson and charged with felony assault, according to police.
Justin Weaver, a close friend of the victim, said he was at the hospital for most of Tuesday with the victim, who had bleeding on his brain, broken facial bones and would need surgery.
The victim was transported by ambulance to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, then later to Albany Medical Center, according to police.
Weaver was not at the scene of the crime, but said he talked to the victim about the attack while at his bedside.
The victim was leaving a corner store near the intersection of Second Street and Warren when a shirtless man approached him, according to Weaver.
“My friend was called a faggot, and [my friend] asked what the guy said, and the guy repeated himself, and that’s how everything began,” Weaver said.
Meredith Clark, who works in Hudson, said she heard an argument from the direction of the corner store while she was standing on Second Street, but initially did not think much of it and could not hear what was being said.
Shortly after the noise stopped, a tall, shirtless, tattooed man wearing black pants walked down Second Street, Clark said.
The man “seemed pissed off” and was looking down alleys, she said.
Clark witnessed the beating and called 911.
“As soon as the smaller guy fell down, I knew it was going to be bad,” she said.
In retrospect, “it was quite obvious that the guy in the black pants went looking for the guy,” Clark added.
The Other Hudson Valley acquired video of the incident. Hudson police also have footage, but it is not known if the video described below is the same as the one being reviewed by police in their investigation.
The video captures what appears to be the entire beating, but only small parts of the argument leading to it.
In the video, which appears to be shot on a cell phone from a stopped car, a shirtless man is heard saying something about “violence” while approaching a man with a beard, who points at the shirtless man and warns him he will defend himself if touched.
The video cuts out, then the shirtless man is seen circling the bearded man, who again says he is willing to fight if the shirtless man attacks him.
“I am telling you right now, I am not the one,” the bearded man is heard saying.
The shirtless man appears to swing first, but the bearded man’s punch is nearly simultaneous, according to the video.
Both men take fighting stances and the bearded man swings once before falling. The shirtless man then gets on top of him, forces the man’s head back against the pavement, and punches him in the face a dozen times, according to the video.
“He’s knocked out! Someone do something! Do something!” A voice is heard saying in the middle of the barrage.
When Clark approached the victim while on the line with Columbia County 911, the victim was unconscious, bleeding, and had a gash on his head, she said.
“The guy was on a mission to beat this guy up,” she added.
The assault happened near where the victim was staying on Second Street, according to Weaver, a few hundred feet away from where Clark and Weaver said the initial argument occurred.
The Other Hudson Valley generally does not identify the victims of crimes.
The alleged assailant, who has not yet been identified by police, was arraigned in Hudson City Court late Tuesday, his bail set at $1,000, according to Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore.
Moore refused to comment on whether a slur was used during or prior to the fight, but said his department was continuing to investigate.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls [about] this from all over, including state police, who were contacted by the Governor’s Office, so there’s an extreme amount of interest in this case,” he added.
Weaver characterized the victim as someone who doesn’t back down if confronted.
“My friend is the type of person if you’re going to say something…derogatory to him, he’s going to use his words back,” Weaver said. “[He] doesn’t hit someone first, but if somebody wants to hit [him], they’re going to have a fight on their hands, because that’s just how [he] is.”
Weaver, who is gay, said he found the word faggot to be disturbingly offensive, as did the victim, and called the alleged assault a “hate crime.”
“It’s not just a regular fight – when someone baits a gay person with the word faggot and then pummels the person after they’re unconscious already – that is a hate crime,” he said.
Hate crimes in New York are defined as offenses where the victim is selected based on their perceived “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation” or the crime was committed because of the perpetrator’s beliefs or perceptions about these groups, according to state Penal Law.
Though the alleged assailant has not been charged with a hate crime, police still have the ability to upgrade the assault charge to a hate crime, and a grand jury could choose to indict the man on a hate crime, according to Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czjaka.
Second-degree assault, the class D felony the alleged assailant is facing, carries up to 7 years in prison, but if the assault is considered a hate crime, the charge carries a maximum of 15 years, according to state Penal Law, but this does not take into consideration any prior offenses.
The victim was still hospitalized as of this morning, but he is expected to be released either today or Thursday, according to Weaver.
Correction: Second-degree assault is a class D felony, not class C, punishable with up to seven years in prison, not 15. If the assault is considered a hate crime, it carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.