What to Know
- Edward Ruggiero, 58, of Long Beach, was arrested in May, accused of a hate crime attack on a fellow LIRR passenger
- His hateful tirade on the 25-year-old woman on a LIRR train between Forest Hills and Jamaica on April 19 was recorded and widely viewed
- He pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated harassment and disorderly conduct, and will have to complete a bias incident program
The Long Island Rail Road rider who was arrested after his racist tirade at a black woman on his train went viral has admitted to harassing the other passenger as part of a plea deal, prosecutors say.
Edward Ruggiero of Long Beach pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment and disorderly conduct as part of a plea deal Thursday, the Queens district attorney's office said. He had been facing up to a year in jail on the original charges for which he was arrested, which included hate crime.
As part of the deal, he is required to complete a 12-week bias incident program, at which point he will be convicted of the lesser violation of disorderly conduct. He would only pay a fine for that.
An order of protection will also be issued for the victim, the D.A.'s office said.
Ruggiero was seen on video verbally attacking a fellow passenger while riding a LIRR train between Forest Hills and Jamaica stations the night of April 19, the Queens district attorney's office said.
Ruggiero allegedly approached the 25-year-old victim, who's from Lynbrook, and raised his hand toward her and threatened to "smack the [expletive] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive]."
He continued to scream at the woman, calling her a "black monkey," and that she should "Get off at Jamaica. Get off in the ghetto," then imitated the sounds monkeys make.
He went on in a long hateful tirade filled with vulgar, racist language. (WARNING: Video below contains graphic, offensive language.)
The woman who recorded the encounter wrote on Facebook that the victim had been talking on the phone -- not loudly -- and it apparently angered Ruggiero, who started muttering under his breath before fully yelling at the victim. When another young woman stood up for the victim, he allegedly continued ranting and then called them "monkeys."
"What this video does not show -- him getting up to get in the young woman's face to scream at her more," said Aneesa Janat Rafeek, the woman who posted the video. "It was honestly so disgusting to witness."
The victim, Soraya Orelien, told the New York Post she did nothing to her attacker: "Clearly the man is deranged. Hateful."
His lawyer, Joseph Donatelli, has called Ruggiero's language reprehensible but does not believe the video shows a hate crime.
"No question what he said was morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable, foul-mouthed, insulting," he told News 4 after Ruggiero's initial court appearance in May. "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."
"Of course he's sorry for what he says, he just, he lost it on the train," said Donatelli.
The attorney argues that the dispute was sparked by the woman's phone conversation on the train, not her race.
"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,'" said Donatelli. "Some Italian American males are very sensitive when it comes to their mother. And when you talk about their mother, their gloves come off."