A Long Island Rail Road passenger caught on camera launching a profane, hate-filled rant against a fellow passenger last month has been charged with a hate crime, officials announced Wednesday.
Edward Ruggerio, 58, could face jail time for his verbal assault against train-rider Soraya Orelien, a Black woman whom he repeatedly threatened and called a “f—–g monkey” in the recorded April 19 rant. As reported by the New York Daily News, Queens DA Richard Brown charged Ruggerio with menacing as a hate crime, as well as one count of second-degree aggravated harassment.
The crimes are punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the newspaper.
“The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, NY, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” Brown said in a statement.
“No one should be subjected to the vile words and intimidating actions the defendant is accused of tormenting the victim with,” he added. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”
Ruggerio was caught on video completely losing it on Orelien, who was on her way home from class at the time. Witnesses said the man approached the 25-year-old passenger and raised a hand toward her before threatening to “smack the sh-t out of you, you loud mouth monkey motherf—-r,” NBC New York reported.
Ruggerio continued shouting at the woman, as seen in bystander video of the incident, and even started imitating monkey noises. The woman who recorded Ruggerio’s rant wrote on Facebook that the man was angered by Orelien talking on her phone and wanted her to be quiet.
“I can’t listen to your f—–g Black ass no more … You f–king loudmouthed bitch,” Ruggerio shouts in the video. ” …At least I’ve got a mother. You know who your mother is? You don’t know who your mother or your father is, because you’re a f—–g monkey!”
Ruggerio’s attorney, Joseph Donatelli, acknowledged that his client’s behavior was reprehensible but says what he saw in the video wasn’t a hate crime.
“No question what he said was morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable, foul-mouthed, insulting,” Donatelli said. “I just don’t know whether or not it rolls to the level of a crime. The one thing we have a right to be in this country is to be a jerk.”
“Of course he’s sorry for what he says, he just, he lost it on the train,” he added.