A man was indicted Wednesday for robbing and assaulting an armless teenager in Staten Island, NY. But his charges—second- and third-degree robbery, and second-degree assault—are all being categorized as hate crimes. This brings the potential for higher sentences than if this were a “normal” offense.
Authorities say Vincent Popalardo, 20, and two juveniles stole from 18-year-old Carlos Simon outside a Dunkin Donuts on Nov. 30. It was only on Jan. 6 that Popalardo was arrested, all the way in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“The defendant targeted the victim because of his disability, which shows that these actions were in fact hate crimes under the state’s statue,” Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon said in court. “All crimes are unacceptable, but those committed against an individual because of his or her disability are particularly despicable.”
Simon was born without arms, and spoke to ABC Eyewitness News about the alleged robbery. “As I keep saying no, they surround me, and they started pushing me around and tried to go through my pockets and stuff,” he said. “They tried to drop me on the floor, but thankfully I have a lot of good leg strength.”
Still, the fact that Simon is disabled isn’t enough to meet the burden of proof to prove a hate crime in New York State. The prosecution would have to show a jury Popalardo chose his alleged victim based on his lack of arms. Maybe the robbery and assault could be confirmed in court. But the hate crime? That’s another hurdle the district attorney will have to jump.
A reported total of five people have been arrested in connection to the Nov. 30 incident.
[h/t ABC 7 NY]
[Popalardo mugshot via Richmond County District Attorney]