Two Puerto Rican men were sentenced today to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release each for federal charges of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice, arising out of an assault with a dangerous weapon against a transgender woman because of her gender identity.
“The defendants have been held accountable for assaulting a Latina transgender woman because of her gender identity and then trying to obstruct an investigation into that assault,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No one should live in fear of hate-fueled violence because of who they are. The Justice Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting people who target LGBTQI+ people with acts of violence or who try to obstruct investigations into these heinous crimes. We hope that this prosecution makes clear to LGBTQI+ victims and survivors that we see them, and we hear them, and we will stand up for them when they are targeted by hate-fueled violence.”
“The defendants’ attack endangered and terrified their victim, and such actions have no place in our community,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “Bias-motivated violence not only runs contrary to our values but violates federal civil rights laws. We recognize the very real threats and acts of violence faced by the LGBTQI+ community and are determined to use every tool available to preserve the life, safety, and dignity of this community. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to seek justice for all victims of hate crimes and will vigorously prosecute anyone who commits unlawful acts of hate-fueled violence.”
“Every human being should be treated with respect and dignity,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph Gonzalez of the FBI San Juan Field Office. “There are no minor offenses when it comes to hate crimes. We at the FBI reiterate our position of zero tolerance for hate and ask anyone who has been a victim or a witness to a hate crime, to report it either by calling your local FBI field office or by leaving a tip online through tips.fbi.gov.”
According to court documents, on Feb. 24, 2020, at around 12:29 a.m. ET, Jordany Rafael Laboy-Garcia and Christian Yamaurie Rivera-Otero, along with their former co-defendant Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz, were out driving together in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, when they saw the victim, identified as A.N.L., standing under a tent near the side of the road. The defendants recognized A.N.L. from social media posts concerning an incident that had occurred the day prior at a McDonald’s in Toa Baja. During that incident, A.N.L. had used a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom.
Upon recognizing A.N.L., Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling, “la loca, la loca,” as well as other disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car. The defendants then decided to get a paintball gun to shoot A.N.L. and record another iPhone video. Within 30 minutes, they retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location where they had last seen A.N.L., who was still at that location. Lobos-Ruiz then used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.L. multiple times with the paintball gun. After the assault ended, Lobos Ruiz shared the iPhone video recordings with others.
Several hours later, Rivera-Otero and Lobos-Ruiz exchanged text messages, in which they told each other to delete the evidence of their harassment and paintball gun assault of A.N.L., in order to conceal their involvement. Following this message exchange, Lobos-Ruiz deleted the videos on his iPhone of himself yelling at A.N.L. and of Laboy-Garcia firing paintballs at A.N.L.
As part of the plea agreement, Laboy-Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a hate crime and admitted that he shot paintballs at A.N.L. because she was, and was perceived to be, transgender. Rivera-Otero pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted to directing his co-defendant to delete video recordings of the biased motivated assault and harassment of A.N.L.
Lobos-Ruiz previously pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime, admitting that he participated in assaulting A.N.L. because she was, and was perceived to be, transgender and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
The FBI San Juan Field Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras for the District of Puerto Rico and Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.