The assault of a Massachusetts man in Glens Falls last month may be prosecuted as a “hate crime” after police learned the suspect made derogatory comments to the victim before he attacked him.
The victim, Jason Aiken, is not gay, but police said the man who attacked him made comments before the attack that indicate an anti-gay bias.
So authorities are looking into whether Jesse J. Tracy committed a hate crime based on a bias as he severely beat Aiken early in the morning of Dec. 22.
“We’re still doing interviews and want to talk to anyone who witnessed this or has any information about the case,” Glens Falls Police Detective Sgt. Peter Casertino said.
Police said Tracy, 29, called Aiken names as he followed him and a friend along South Street before attacking Aiken in the South Street municipal parking lot.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said her office is aware of the statements attributed to Tracy in the moments before Aiken was beaten.
“We’re in the process of interviewing all of the witnesses and certainly if there is evidence of bigotry being a motivating factor, we will charge it as a hate crime,” she said.
Tracy’s lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said he was not aware of a possible hate crime enhancement of the charge, but said his firm is continuing to investigate the case as of Thursday.
Tracy has been charged with second-degree assault, a felony, for severely injuring Aiken, and charging the case as a hate crime would result in the potential sentence for a second-degree assault conviction increasing from 7 years in prison to 15 years.
Aiken, 26, a Massachusetts resident who is formerly from Washington County, was attacked as he helped an intoxicated friend from a South Street bar to a car.
Police said Tracy punched Aiken and knocked him down and then punched him repeatedly in the face as he was lying on the pavement, only stopping when friends of Tracy urged him to leave because they thought Aiken was dead.
Tracy, 29, of Fort Ann is an amateur mixed martial arts fighter who fought last month in an event in Granville.
He has an extensive criminal history that includes prior arrests for felony assault and felony criminal sale of a controlled substance in Washington County. He pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges in each case.
He also has been arrested on misdemeanor or lesser charges at least a dozen times, according to court records.
Aiken remained in Albany Medical Center on Thursday, 12 days after the incident. He had surgery last week to repair numerous broken facial bones.
Glens Falls Police can be reached at 761-3840.
The case has led to an effort by Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond to close bars at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.