Man charged in assault of Asian American woman, 88, had prior hate crime charges dropped in plea deal

A man arrested in San Francisco after allegedly assaulting an 88-year-old Asian American woman had hate crime charges against him dropped in 2021, the city’s district attorney’s office told NBC News.

Oakland resident James Lee Ramsey, 27, was taken into custody on July 21 for allegedly kicking the woman to the ground and assaulting her, according to a statement from the district attorney. He’s also accused of attacking a witness who was at the scene.

The woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Charges against Ramsey include several felonies: elder abuse, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and battery causing serious bodily injury, according to the DA. He’s also charged with misdemeanor battery for attacking the witness, as well as misdemeanor vandalism. He was not charged with a hate crime, but the DA said that could change since the investigation is ongoing.

Ramsey pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail, the district attorney said.

“The crimes that Mr. Ramsey is accused of are horrific,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in the statement. “I am grateful to the witness who was able to detain him until police arrived ensuring that he did not flee.”

Jenkins’ office acknowledged that Ramsey was arrested in 2021 and charged with a hate crime and assault for allegedly attacking Carl Chan, a community and business leader in Oakland’s Chinatown, and knocking him unconscious, according to the police complaint.

Ramsey agreed to plead no contest to assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury in exchange for dropping the hate crime charge against him. His public defender cited mental health challenges.

“This was not a hate crime, and we’re glad that enhancement was properly dismissed,” Alameda County’s chief public defender, Brendon Woods, told the San Francisco Chronicle after the 2021 incident. “Mr. Ramsey needs mental health treatment, not state prison.

Ramsey’s current public defender could not be reached for comment.

The attack last week follows several highly publicized attacks on older Asian Americans across the country in the last few years and the corresponding rise of the Stop AAPI Hate movement.

On July 10, an 86-year-old Asian woman was shoved to the ground in another unprovoked attack in San Francisco. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

“My office, on behalf of the victims, and every San Franciscan who is fed up with brazen violence like this, will stand for justice and seek to hold him accountable for his crimes,” Jenkins said of Ramsey.

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