Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ridgewood Assault Being Prosecuted as Hate Crime

By Conor Greene

Five Ridgewood residents have been charged with a felony gang assault for their role in the assault of a 17-year-old boy. Because the suspects yelled slurs at the victim during the attack, the attack is being classified as a hate crime by the Queens District Attorney’s office.

Erbi Kau, 20, Geri Duka, 16, Marsel Bode, 19, Eros Canaj, 17 and Emilian Gjikola,20, have been charged with second-degree assault as a hate crime, criminal possession of a weapon and menacing for allegedly attacking a teen on January 24 because they thought he was homosexual. Several other individuals involved were not apprehended.

According to the criminal complaint submitted by Officer Anthony Burzotta of the 104th Precinct, the perpetrators “intentionally selected” the victim due to their perception of his sexual orientation. As a result, the charges will carry a stiffer penalty due to the hate crime designation if the suspects are convicted. The victim told the officer that two individuals, who are still at large, approached him near the intersection of Fairview Avenue and Linden Street at about 3 p.m.

One of them called him a homosexual before punching him in the face. Eight other young men then approached him - including the five who were later arrested - and continued taunting and punching him. They fled from the scene when a witness yelled at them to leave the victim alone.

As he continued walking towards his home, the victim was again accosted by the large group of teens and young men. They all began calling him names and punching him until he fell to his knees. The suspects continued kicking and punching him while he was on the ground, causing a bloody nose, laceration to his cheek and substantial pain, according to the criminal complaint.

While on the ground, one of the suspects that remains at large swung a hammer at him, striking him in the back of the head. The victim was able to get the hammer away from his attacker and throw it to the side. The suspects again fled the scene when a witness yelled at them, and responding officers later recovered the hammer from the scene.

Except for Kau, who was held on $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash, the defendants were ordered held on $2,500 bond or $1,500 cash after their first appearance in Queens Criminal Court on January 25 and were due back in court this Thursday, February 5.

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