What to Know
- Edward Ruggiero, 58, of Long Beach, has been arrested, 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
- If convicted, Ruggiero faces up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine
A Long Island Rail Road rider whose racist tirade at a black woman on his train was widely seen in a cellphone video that went viral has been arrested, prosecutors say.
Edward Ruggiero, 58, of Long Beach, has been charged with menacing as a hate crime for the verbal attack on 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."
D.A. Richard Brown said Wednesday, "The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society – especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation."
"No one should be subjected to the vile words and intimidating actions the defendant is accused of tormenting the victim with. Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice."
Ruggiero was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court Wednesday and released without bail. When asked if he wanted to comment as he walked out after his court appearance, he snapped to News 4, "That wasn't even me."
His lawyer, Joseph Donatelli, 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 said. "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."
"Again, it's no excuse. I'm not making excuses for his behavior. My question is whether it rolls to a crime," said Donatelli.
If convicted, Ruggiero faces up to a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.