Two months after a video showing a man throwing eggs at passengers of a San Francisco bus went viral, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has decided to pursue hate crimes charges in the case.
On Feb. 16, the New York-based Asian American writer Michelle Young tweeted multiple videos and photos of an incident in which a man is seen harassing her and others on a Muni bus. In a video that has accrued more than 100,000 views, he begins lobbing eggs at another passenger.
“Guy [with] lots of eggs came on and starting yelling to me and the Asian girl next to me ‘stupid Chinese bitch,’” Young said in the tweet.
Jenkins announced Thursday that the man in the video, Joseph Benjamin, 44, will be charged with hate crimes and four counts of battery.
“Racially motivated crimes are unacceptable and will be prosecuted,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Hate crimes profoundly impact victims and are toxic to our community that strives to be a safe haven that is open and welcoming to all people.”
The DA’s Office said it has evidence that the crimes were motivated by animus toward people of Asian descent. In an April 19 tweet thread, Young said the reason that she shared her story publicly is to raise awareness among bystanders and maybe have an effect on transit policies and the policing of hate crimes.
“Hate crimes against Asian Americans are real,” Young tweeted.
Benjamin was arrested and arraigned in court. He will be out of custody Friday under supervision but is required to stay away from the victims and certain Muni bus lines. Reportedly, he has also been charged with spitting on an Asian American Muni driver in a separate incident.
Deputy Public Defender Leo Fissel, who represents the defendant in court, issued a statement to The Standard saying that the video clips circulating on social media did not capture the full scope of events, and it's still very early in the process to make a judgment.
"We look forward to defending Mr. Benjamin against these misdemeanor charges and allegations in the courtroom where matters can be more properly addressed," Fissel said.
This story has been updated with the comment from the Public Defender's Office.
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org