Chad Washington, a Columbia University sophomore and member of the football team, was arraigned on charges of second degree aggravated harassment for allegedly making slurs against an Asian student this past weekend. Washington's lawyer, Daniel Fetterman, insists that "the allegations do not accurately portray the events that occurred."
According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred at 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, outside the McBain dormitory on West 113th Street. Detective Michael Diaz of the NYPD's bias incident investigations unit says the victim "observed defendant with five other individuals in front of the above mentioned location and hears someone in the group state in substance: 'Yellow fever. Chinky eyes. Asian mother fucker.'"
The victim says he was followed into McBrain's vestibule, where Washington grabbed his shirt collar and pushed him against the wall. The criminal complaint alleges that Washington said, "You're an Asian pussy. Why don't you hit yourself you Asian pussy."
However, a source familiar with the case suggests that Washington, a defensive lineman for Columbia's football team, may have been provoked by the victim first. Washington and his group of friends had walked past the victim and the victim's female friends, the source says, and apparently brushed up against them. This, the source claims, angered the victim who mocked Washington's group, and at that point, Washington and his friends reacted. Further, the source says that both parties had been drinking.
NBC New York's account, based on information from law enforcement sources, says that the victim and his female friends were heckled by Washington's group; "When the victim tried to defend his friends, the suspect, identified as Chad Washington, allegedly called him slurs and started following him."
In order to prove that Washington committed second degree aggravated assault, the Manhattan DA's office will have to show that Washington either intentionally selected the victim based on his race, or committed the act itself based on the victim's race (see the hate crimes penal code). The DA's office declined to comment.
The 19-year-old was arrested on Tuesday and was released on his own recognizance after the arraignment. Washington's lawyer, Daniel Fetterman, issued a statement:
Chad Washington, a highly regarded student and athlete, was involved in an incident with another student early Sunday morning on the campus of Columbia University. He was charged with a misdemeanor -- not a felony, as reported. The allegations do not accurately portray the events that occurred. When all the facts come out, it will be clear that Mr. Washington did not commit a hate crime, and he will be vindicated.
Unfortunately his football teammates aren't helping things with evidence of their bigoted and ignorant tweets ("When Asian ppl fall asleep in class the teachers can't tell! Lol"). The Columbia Spectator noted, "Although the tweets themselves were unrelated to Washington’s arrest, they raised questions about whether the culture of the football team made it acceptable for the players to tweet what they did and whether Athletics administrators and coaches were aware of the tweets."
Columbia University just issued a statement, "As educators and leaders of a diverse learning community, we are deeply concerned when racism, sexism, homophobia and incivility—whether in words, actions or posts of any kind—target individuals or groups. Such behavior violates our Community Principles" but added, "We ask that you respect the privacy of all individuals involved and allow us to investigate thoroughly and act according to our protocols and procedures. Speculation based on limited or inaccurate information reported in the press, or anonymous rumor, serves no one well and is detrimental to the wellbeing of those involved as well as to our community as a whole."