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NYC Woman Arrested For Pushing Man In Front Of Subway Train, Claims It Was “An Act Against Muslims”

For the second time in less than a month, a man died after being pushed in front of an oncoming New York City subway train, only this time there’s a twist:

A 31-year-old woman was being held by the police on Saturday, authorities said, in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of a Queens subway station and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erica Menendez of the Bronx, will be charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, according to a person in the Queens district attorney’s office. When Ms. Menendez was taken into custody by police early Saturday morning, she made comments implicating herself in the crime when questioned by detectives, according to Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Departme.nt.

A law enforcement official said that Ms. Menendez had “told the cops it was an act against Muslims,” and cited the Sept. 11 attacks. The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

Law enforcement officials would not comment on Ms. Menendez’s mental health.

The attack occurred around 8 p.m. on Thursday at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside.

Mr. Sen was peering out over the tracks when a woman approached him from behind and shoved him onto the tracks, the police said. Mr. Sen never saw her, the police said, and had no time to react.

The woman fled the station, running down two flights of stairs and down the street.

By the next morning, a grainy black-and-white video of the woman who the police said was behind the attack was being broadcast on news programs.

It was not a lot to go on. The video was blurry and only a few seconds long.

Patrol officers picked up Ms. Menendez early Saturday after someone who had seen the video on television spotted her on a Brooklyn street and called 911, Mr. Browne said. She was taken to Queens and later placed in lineups, according to detectives

My feelings about so-called “hate crimes” have always been rather ambiguous. On the one hand, I don’t agree with the idea that the reason someone commits a horrible crime should be a crime in itself. That comes far to close to “thought crime” for my comfort. On the other hand, I fully understand and largely support the idea that the fact that a crime was motivated by racial, ethnic, or religious bias should stand as a sentencing enhancement. That’s a public policy choice that state legislatures are fully within their rights and powers to make. In this particular case, we still don’t know if this woman is nuts, or if the victim was even Muslim, but I wouldn’t have much of a problem with her spending the rest of her life in prison.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    With mandatory sentencing guidelines often eliminating much of the judge’s discretion in sentencing, the hate crime laws add flexibility to the sentences — the criminal is either screwed, or really screwed, depending on whether it is a hate crime.

    I also think it makes for a more uniform application of punishment. By making it a separate crime, the state must prove the bias, and the decision is placed in the hands of the 12 person jury, rather than a single judge.

    There’s less opportunity for the judge to apply harsher penalties arbitrarily. I’d rather risk juries failing to convict on the hate crime and some criminals getting off too lightly, than risk judges attempting to determine motive and adding to a sentence incorrectly.

    But a part of me still cringes at the prospect of thought crimes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My feelings about so-called “hate crimes” have always been rather ambiguous

    I once “watched” (actually heard) a man blow his wife away. I have no doubt it was a crime of “hate”. (more accurately, “passion”) I then watched him (literally, as I came around the corner of my apt. building) put the barrel of the rifle into his mouth and then pull the trigger. I know this was the ultimate act of love. He had told me so.

    This sh!t makes no sense. Aryan Brotherhood or Eddie watching his wife tell his children she is coming back for them after being missing in action for 3 mos.

    Killing another human being is beyond comprehension for the vast majority of us. But it happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Also, I don’t have anything against judges — I just think they are human and fallible. Twelve people are less likely to make a human error than one, and the need for unanimity means that if there is an error, it is more likely to be towards leniency (as a soft-on-crime liberal, I’d prefer that in general, but truthfully I’m not going to sit up at night worrying whether someone convicted of assault or murder is serving too long of a sentence…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  4. de stijl says:

    Doug:

    or if the victim was even Muslim

    From the quoted article:

    The victim, Sunando Sen, was born in India and, according to a roommate, was raised Hindu.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. John Burgess says:

    @Gustopher: Just to note that two states — Louisiana and Oregon — permit non-unanimous verdicts in criminal cases. This practice was challenged all the way to the US Supreme Ct., which declined to take the case.

    http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2009/10/us_supreme_court_declines_to_c.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. SKI says:

    @de stijl: worse, he was non-practicing because he thought religion was divisive. :-(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    My main concern about “hate crime” laws is that they tend to be enforced unequally. While there certainly is plenty of hatred for whites, Christians, and Jews, just to name a few, I don’t recall ever hearing about “hate” playing a role in prosecutions of those who targeted them. For example, the Long Island Railroad shooter targeted whites. The LA rioters who went after Reginald Denny went after him for being white. The 1994 shooting of a Yeshiva student in a bus in Brooklyn.

    I remember people slamming then–Governor Bush of Texas for opposing a hate crime law in the aftermath of the Bird killing. His argument — which I found most compelling — was that of the three convicted, two were sentenced to death and the third was sentenced to life in exchange for testifying against the other two. In that case, the existing laws worked just fine; adding in “hate crime” would have been utterly pointless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  8. just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Thanks! Just when I thought no one would say anything stupid and bigoted, you came along and saved the day!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker: Delighted to be of service. Now, if you’ll be so kind, elucidate on how legally defining certain groups as “more protected than others” is a Good Thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    That would be very tough to watch. Sorry that happened to you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Here, I’ll do that.

    1943. Germany. Nazi kills Jew. Jew kills Nazi. See any difference?

    1921. Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Look it up.) White kills black. Black kills white. See any difference?

    All murder is horrible. But not all murder has a knock-on effect on society as a whole. Members of the majority killing members of the minority has that enhanced effect. It attacks the foundations of a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-racial society in a way that the typical murder does not.

    Of course you know this, because it’s obvious, but you have to play the jackass. As usual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @de stijl:

    That’s the crackerjack attention to detail and reading comprehension we’ve come to expect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: Thank you so much for the remedial education. I was not aware that our society today is so similar to Nazi Germany or the segregationist, Democrat-dominated south.

    Seriously, though, you raise a very compelling point — you just didn’t realize it. Both your examples are about cases where some killings are legally “worse” because of who the murdered person was. Nazi Germany and the segregationist south would have treated the murder of the “protected” class — the Nazi and the white person — than that of the “unprotected” person — the Jew and the black. Now you argue that we should do the same, but in the opposite direction.

    It don’t work that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  14. Rick Almeida says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Now, if you’ll be so kind, elucidate on how legally defining certain groups as “more protected than others” is a Good Thing.

    Because some are more vulnerable than others, because some are targets. We often treat crimes against children this way. Some conservatives want to afford fetuses “more protection” than the living.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. John Encarnacion says:

    Listen to you all, talking about everything but the crime was committed that shows your commitment to protect our society and your care for the human race. This man was pushed to die in the name of stupidity and ignorance. An ignorance that plague our schools and some people houses. Have some compassion and stop your cruel indifference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  16. rudderpedals says:

    Proving up a defendant’s mental state is today and has been for centuries at the heart of criminal law as an element of the crime and its defenses. You’d be correct tagging everything worse than running a stop sign as a “thought crime”. 1984 is deferred pending the appearance of precogs. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Franklin says:

    Assuming her statement is true, the people riling up anti-Muslim sentiment have some explaining to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. matt says:

    Hate crimes are unnecessary bullshit. If you kill someone are they suddenly somehow more dead because they were black and you called them a n***er? The victim of the crime is either dead or in the hospital and that’s what matters in any crime of hate (whatever the source of the hate). If you don’t think the current laws are tough enough then advocate for tougher sentencing not the creation of crimes that only can be committed by certain groups against other certain groups. It doesn’t surprise me that the same people who think that victims of murder only count if there was a gun involved support this concept. It appears that some people are more equal then others…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  19. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @John Encarnacion: The woman has pretty much admitted to either first or second-degree murder. (I’m not a lawyer.) I figure her statement is to set up an insanity defense.

    I have no sympathy for murderers. To me, she deserves death or life in prison. And the victim… this reminds me of the Sikhs who were mistaken for Muslims and targeted for harassment after 9/11. That was just as wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @Franklin: Assuming her statement is true, the people riling up anti-Muslim sentiment have some explaining to do.

    Why? Did someone repeal the 1st Amendment while I wasn’t looking?

    A lot of people — including a professor in Connecticut and a few commenters here — “riled up” a lot of anti-NRA sentiment after the Newtown shootings, including calls for imprisonment and death. All protected speech. Tacky and vile and reprehensible, but perfectly legal.

    Likewise here.

    Besides, these days offending Muslims’ sensibilities is incredibly easy. Maybe we should provoke them more often, so they get a little thicker skin and stop going apeshit every time someone does something they consider “blasphemous.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  21. america says:

    this is crap what give her the right to due that just becuase he from indian or mulseim waht about her kind how woulds ske like if someone push one of her so called people like that thye get so much specal treamnet taxes free on all only 10 to 25 % may work very hard the rest get ass from food stamp ass from the govment to help with billd home biuness there cars thay all live in one house hold in lie just to get on food stamp in yes its the truth people like me well we get crap on in say we cant we make 5 to ten doolors to much in only one work im on fix income i get disbitl my wife work just partime due to her illness she get dis all we get is subtaol onethosand sevenhunders tendoolors time we pay our rent rent ins water gas light phone in gas for car all we have is maybe 75..00 or less that allwe make too much it wwe was from the borader in cant speak engish just spanch chaged our name i bet my sweet but we get help

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  22. Barry says:

    @rudderpedals: Yes. For example, I live in Michigan (soon to be known as Michi-bama) where first degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life without possibility of parole. The effect of ‘intent’ here is rather strong; one would far rather be convicted of second-degree murder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Barry says:

    @america: Sweet Lord, man – please get somebody literate to proofread your blather.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0