A federal grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, returned a three-count indictment Friday charging three men with hate crimes for assaulting a transgender woman because of her gender identity.
According to a news release issued Friday by the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., the three men charged in the case are Jordany Rafael Laboy García, Christian Yamaurie Rivera Otero and Anthony Steven Lobos Ruiz. Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz were also charged with obstruction of justice.
The indictment alleges that on Feb. 24, 2020, Laboy García, Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz were traveling in a car when they recognized the victim on the side of the road in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. According to the indictment, the conspirators recognized the victim from social media posts previously identifying her as a man who entered the women’s restroom at a local restaurant. After identifying her, Laboy García, Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz verbally harassed the victim. The three men then drove to get a paintball gun and paintballs to be used to shoot at the victim. The men returned to the same place where they had spotted the victim and fired paintballs at her. During both encounters, the men used a cell phone to record their actions. The men then shared these recordings with others.
The indictment further alleges that after the alleged assault, Rivera Otero directed Lobos Ruiz to delete at least one video recording of the paintball gun assault and verbal harassment of the victim from his cellular phone, and that Lobos Ruiz, in response, did so.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the hate crime charge, five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a fine up to $250,000 with respect to each charge. If convicted, Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz also face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 for the obstruction of justice charge.
The case is being investigated by the San Juan field office of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Rose E. Gibson and trial attorney Laura B. Gilson of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division along with Assistant U.S. Attorney José A. Contreras of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.
The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Joseph González for the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.