A man was arraigned Thursday on a felony assault charge for allegedly beating a gay man on a Hudson Street last month.
Lance M. Fongemie was indicted on the charge July 19 after prosecutors presented evidence to a Columbia County grand jury, according to court documents. The charge did not include a hate crime rider, which can be attached to certain crimes and elevates the possible sentence.
Fongemie pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday. He is represented by John Leonardson, a public defender.
Fongemie allegedly called the victim a “faggot” in front of a Warren Street bodega, according to the victim, leading to an argument and Fongemie beating the man unconscious.-
The alleged assault, and parts of the argument leading up to it, were caught on video.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czjaka would not say whether he presented the grand jury with the possibility of attaching a hate crime rider. Grand juries are secret, and district attorneys, defense attorneys and the jurors themselves are barred from discussing them.
Fongemie was homeless at the time of the alleged assault, according to Hudson Police Chief Ed Moore.
The defendant was quoted in a 2018 Register-Star article about mental health funding, saying he suffers from bi-polar disorder, anxiety and depression. He was getting help from the county’s mental health program at the time, according to the article.
Fongemie has two known prior arrests.
He was arrested in October 2011 and charged with three misdemeanors and two felonies for allegedly punching a man, attempting to hit him with a crowbar and breaking his phone while he was with his 10-year-old daughter, according to the Columbia Paper.
He was also convicted of second-degree menacing, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation, last year in Hillsdale Town Court, according to Columbia County Court documents.
The charge, second-degree assault, carries a maximum of seven years in prison, according to state sentencing guidelines. A hate crime rider would have increased the maximum to 15 years.
The victim suffered broken facial bones and bleeding on the brain and will have to undergo surgery, according to Justin Weaver, a friend of the victim.
In the video acquired by The Other Hudson Valley, a shirtless man and the victim are shown arguing before the shirtless man appears to swing at the victim, who almost simultaneously punches back.
The two take fighting stances before the victim falls. The shirtless man then gets on top of him, forces the victim’s head back against the pavement, and punches him in the face a dozen times, according to the video.
DA Czjaka said Thursday he offered to decline making a sentencing recommendation if the presiding judge viewed the video, an order of protection was issued, and Fongemie was kept in pre-trial detention.