The attorney for one of two men charged in a brutal 2009 assault on a Queens gay man said his client was not motivated by anti-gay bias.
“We don’t believe this was a hate crime,” said Theodore P. Kasapis, the lawyer for 21-year-old Daniel Rodriguez, following a January 5 hearing in the case. “I believe it was more of a neighborhood drug thing.”
Rodriguez and Daniel Aleman, 26, allegedly attacked Jack Price, 49, early in the morning on October 8 in College Point. Both were arrested on charges of felony assault and robbery as hate crimes. They are being held without bail on Rikers Island. While 2009 press reports said that Aleman and Rodriguez attacked Price because he was gay, the fight may have resulted from a drug dispute, Kasapis said.
Daniel Rodriguez’s lawyer might put victim on trial as “known drug user
“That may be one of the defenses,” he told Gay City News, saying of Price. “The information that I’ve got is that he was known in the neighborhood as a drug user.”
Kasapis said that anti-gay views played no role in the attack. He noted that Price was alone before the assault and that “the most common thing” that precipitates an anti-gay assault is a gay or lesbian couple kissing or holding hands.
“Not that this means anything, but he has lesbian and gay friends,” Kasapis said of Rodriguez. “I don’t think he has any particular animosity toward any group.”
Kasapis also said that his client was not initially involved in the fight. He said Rodriguez and Aleman were “acquaintances for sure,” and that his client eventually came to Aleman’s aid.
“I think he was aware of the fight, but he wasn’t looking to get into it,” Kasapis said.
What will be very tough for the defense to explain is a nearly three-minute surveillance video that shows most of the assault.
At the start of the black and white video, Price is seen clearly fleeing a taller man dressed in dark clothing who appears to be wearing a hat. That man is kicking and punching Price, who is not fighting back. After roughly 25 seconds, a second, shorter man, who is not wearing a hat, enters and also kicks and punches Price. The shorter man is also dressed in dark clothing, but he is easily distinguished from the other man because his top has a large white patch on the back.
The attack continues intermittently for nearly two minutes, with the attackers pausing apparently to speak to Price. The video has no sound, and the men’s faces cannot be seen. Before the two men leave Price on the street, the taller one stops to go through his pants pockets.
According to information on the city Corrections Department web site, Aleman is five feet, nine inches tall and weighs 145 pounds. Rodriguez is six feet tall and weighs 155 pounds.
Little of the evidence in the case has been made public, and the Queens district attorney had not even presented the case to a grand jury as of January 5. The charges Rodriguez and Aleman face at trial may change after the grand jury proceeding.
In the video, at least two cars can be seen driving by while the attack is happening, so occupants of those cars may be witnesses. There may be neighbors who witnessed the assault as well.
Reportedly, one of the two men gave a statement to police. Additionally, if police have recovered any clothes worn by the assailants during the attack, those clothes may have Price’s blood and DNA on them.
Aleman’s attorney left the Queens courthouse before Gay City News could get comment from her, and the newspaper could not find a phone number for her.