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Asian American man, 69, sues SF District Attorney for not prosecuting attackers with hate crime


An elderly Asian American man who was attacked two years ago in San Francisco and left with PTSD is suing the city’s District Attorney’s Office over allegedly mishandling his case.

Anh Lê was walking through Chinatown when he sustained a ‘brutal’ assault by a father and son, who threatened to kill him and beat him with a baseball bat.

The 69-year-old, who is Vietnamese American, was able to escape and call 911. His attackers were arrested later that day by SFPD officers, on November 2, 2019.

The father was identified as Jimmy Tanner Sr. His teenage son had taken a baseball bat out of his mother’s bag after Lê told him to be careful while he was riding his bicycle on a busy sidewalk, and had nearly crashed into him.

Tanner Sr.’s teenage son hit Lê repeatedly with the bat, before his father held up a glass bottle and threatened to kill the elderly man. According to NextShark, Tanner Sr. was detained for battery, felony elder abuse and tarroristic threats.

However, the San Francisco District Attorney refused to prosecute either Tanner Sr. or his son with a hate crime, and agreed to a lenient plea deal with the father. 

Anh Lê was walking through Chinatown when he sustained a ‘brutal’ assault by a father and son, who threatened to kill him and beat him with a baseball bat. San Francisco District Attorney refused to prosecute either Tanner Sr. or his son with a hate crime, and agreed to a lenient plea deal with the father, with telling Mr Lê

In order to avoid jail time, Tanner Sr. pled guilty to a misdemeanour battery charge. He received a year of probation over the incident.

Lê says the office of District Attorney Chesa Boudin never informed him of a lenient plea deal cut with his attackers or the lack of a hate crime charge until after the fact.

He is now arguing that the office of DA Boudin has systemically refused to uphold the rights of Asian Americans victimized by racial violence.

‘The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office allowed the adult male attacker to plead to a misdemeanor with one year probation, restitution to the victim and (a) criminal protective order,’ Mr Lê said during a news conference on Tuesday.

‘They did this without consulting me, without any input from me at all, and in violation of my rights as a victim.’ 

During the conference, the man said the attack was ‘the most brutal, terrifying and humiliating experience of my life.’  

The victim of the assault has also said he was not given the chance to enter a victim impact statement, meaning nothing was read at Tanner Sr’s plea deal hearing on his behalf about the severity of the attack, or its consequences.

Furthermore, Lê says the DA’s office refused to correct a Criminal Protective Order (CPO) that omitted his last name, and noted his age incorrectly.

He says he tried repeatedly to correct the CPO, but he was allegedly ignored by the DA’s office, which also told him he didn’t have the right to be at hearings on the case.

Mr Lê is arguing that the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (pictured) has systemically refused to uphold the rights of Asian Americans victimized by racial violence

Mr Lê is arguing that the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (pictured) has systemically refused to uphold the rights of Asian Americans victimized by racial violence

The attack was carried out in front of a Chinese grocery store in Chinatown, infront of a crowd of people. Le says the man’s wife and another teenage son ‘seemed to watch with glee’ as he was attacked. 

Lê has said that the attack left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and according to court documents, he spent a year in psychiatric therapy.

In the criminal case, Tanner’s public defender argued that the father never attacked Lê, and that the bat his son hit the elderly man with was plastic.

Sliman Nawabi argued that Tanner is a ‘severely disabled man’ who was using a wheelchair when the attack took place, and that Lê shouted at his young children for riding their bikes.

‘Out of fear for his safety, Mr. Tanner’s 11-year-old son took out his plastic baseball bat and swung it at Mr. Lê,’ Nawabi said during the case.

‘Mr. Lê refused medical attention that day and had no visible injuries from the plastic baseball bat. Mr. Le was never attacked by Mr. Tanner nor was a glass bottle used as a weapon against Mr. Le.’ 

Lê says he later learned that the Tanners went on to target other Asian Americas after his attack. The other attacks are also alleged to have occurred in Chinatown. 

Rachel Marshall, a spokeswoman for the DA, said in a statement that Boudin has been a ‘steadfast advocate’ for improved services and support for the AAPI community. 

He has added multilingual advocates to his office and launched an AAPI elder abuse steering committee, she said. 

Boudin, who faces a recall election in June, has come under fire from some Asian American victims. 

Pictured: San Francisco Police patrol their beat in Chinatown in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 March 2021. On Tuesday, the mayor of San Francisco expressed despair over the increase in reported hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders last year

Pictured: San Francisco Police patrol their beat in Chinatown in San Francisco, California, USA, 18 March 2021. On Tuesday, the mayor of San Francisco expressed despair over the increase in reported hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders last year

Also on Tuesday, the mayor of San Francisco expressed despair over the increase in reported hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders last year.

Attacks were up an astonishing 567 percent from the previous year, according to preliminary figures released by the police department on Tuesday.

Mayor London Breed pledged continued support for the community, saying she suspects actual numbers are much higher because people are reluctant to report to the police. The initial count shows 60 victims in 2021, up from nine in 2020. 

Half of last year’s victims were allegedly targeted by one man.

It would have broken her heart if the grandmother who raised her had been attacked ‘in the way that we see so many of our seniors of the AAPI community being attacked,’ Breed said at Tuesday’s press conference. 

‘But that did not happen. Because as a community we protected one another. And that’s what we have to do now more than ever.’

Hateful attacks against the AAPI community – Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – surged nationally during the pandemic, fueled in part by then-President Donald Trump’s calling COVID-19 a derogatory nickname that insulted China. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a news conference about crime against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in San Francisco, California, U.S. January 25, 2022

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a news conference about crime against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in San Francisco, California, U.S. January 25, 2022

The Stop AAPI Hate coalition out of San Francisco State University tracked more than 10,000 incidents of hate from March 2020 through September 2021.

In San Francisco and elsewhere, video clips of Asian Americans being attacked and robbed on public streets alarmed the community so much that frightened seniors stayed home. 

Most recently, former San Francisco Bay Area resident Michelle Go died in New York City after a mentally disturbed man pushed her in front of a subway. 

Officials there say there is no indication the man was motivated by racial bias, but Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are still rattled.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at Tuesday’s news conference they have expanded the crime tip line to include more languages and are sharing safety tips for Lunar New Year celebrations. 

But he also acknowledged his department is only part of a criminal justice system that includes prosecution and judges.

Statistics do not show the whole picture because not everyone reports incidents. Also, prosecutors are unable to tack on hate crime enhancements without a clear statement of bias by the alleged attacker. 

This has frustrated some victims and their families, who see the charge as a sign of accountability.



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