A New York man has learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to be racist.
Edward Ruggiero, 58, was recorded berating a 25-year-old black woman, Soraya Orelien, on the Long Island railroad for “talking too loud.” In his rant, he hurled racial slurs at Orelien, repeatedly calling her a “loud-mouthed monkey.”
As a result of his racist tirade, Ruggiero has now been charged with a hate crime and could face up to a year behind bars if he’s convicted.
Ruggiero’s official charges include third-degree menacing as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment. In addition to jail time, he could be ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
“The bigotry and hatred the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” Richard Brown, the Queens district attorney, said in a statement.
In the clip recorded by another passenger, Orelien can be heard shouting back at Ruggiero. At one point, she made a remark about his mother to which he replied, “At least I got a f****** mother. Do you know who your mother is? You don’t know who your mother or your father is because you’re a f****** monkey, that’s why.”
Brown condemned the hateful language Ruggiero used against Orelien.
“No one should be subjected to the vile words and intimidating actions the defendant is accused of tormenting the victim with,” Brown said. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here, and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”
On the other hand, Ruggiero’s lawyer, Joseph Donatelli, maintains that while his client’s behavior was “unacceptable,” it does not constitute a hate crime.
“No question what he said was morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable, foul-mouthed, insulting,” Donatelli told NBC New York. “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.”
He added: “Of course he's sorry for what he says, he just, he lost it on the train.”
Furthermore, Donatelli maintained that the initial issue Ruggiero had with Orelien wasn’t related to her race but rather the phone conversation she was having out loud on the train.
“I think he lost it when — again, I only have limited information — I saw when he was talking about her being a loudmouth, she says, 'Your mother is a loudmouth,'” Donatelli said. “Again, it's no excuse. I'm not making excuses for his behavior. My question is whether it rolls to a crime.”
The incident occurred on April 19, after which Orelien said she felt “disgusted.”
“He made me feel less than what I am,” she told ABC News.
“He was so angry you saw the veins pop out of his neck,” she added.
Regardless of how frustrated Ruggiero may have been with Orelien for talking on the phone, making the argument racial was unnecessary. If the issue was, ultimately, her volume, then race should never have come into play.
However, the entire ordeal could have been avoided if Ruggiero just would have gotten up and found another seat away from Orelien to avoid hearing her conversation. He could have taken the high road but he didn't; now he has to face the consequences.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Pixabay, succo