A Diamond Bar man was arrested Thursday on federal charges alleging that he disrupted a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in March, 2021 by deliberately running a red light, blocking the path of demonstrators lawfully using a crosswalk and yelling racial epithets at them—before calling the cops.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California secured a federal grand jury indictment against Steve Lee Dominguez, 56, on two counts of bias-motivated interference with federal protected activities, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
In the incident, which was caught on video and posted to Instagram, Dominguez is accused of intimidating a group of protestors in Diamond Bar who were rallying against a dramatic rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the course of the pandemic, five days after a gunman murdered six Asian women and two others in Atlanta-area massage parlors.
Dominguez allegedly shouted, “Go back to China!” and other racial slurs at the protesters, including a 9-year-old girl, according to prosecutors, before he “deliberately drove his car through the intersection’s crosswalk at the red light, made an illegal U-turn and cut off the route of several rally participants lawfully crossing the street.”
Prosecutors say Dominguez then pulled his car over near the intersection, got out and continued to yell racial epithets and threats at the demonstrators.
Dominguez allegedly then called the police, identified himself as “John Doe,” and falsely reported that the rally participants were blocking the street, adding that he had to run a red light “because they were about to trample my car.”
The indict also says Dominguez asked cops to “get some control out” at the intersection.
Brian Sun, a former federal prosecutor who is now a trial lawyer and a founding member of the Alliance for Asian American Justice, tells the Los Angeles Times that it’s unusual for a suspect to be charged with interfering with the right to protest, especially on the basis of the protesters’ race and when no one was injured.
“Proving these cases is not easy unless you have good eyewitness testimony, usually from multiple people and/or video or something like that,” he said. “But you can prove that hate crimes are hate crimes.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s office declined to charge Dominguez, the Times notes, writing in a memo that he was attempting to get away from the protesters, not to harm them.
Dominguez has pleaded not guilty and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. His trial is set to begin July 5.
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