For Immediate Release - March 22, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley Obtains Civil Rights Injunction Against Wakefield Women Accused of Hate Crime on MBTA Train

WOBURN - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office has obtained a civil rights injunction against two Wakefield women charged with the January 2010 assault of a man on the MBTA Orange Line subway based on his perceived sexual orientation. The order, granted March 19, 2010, by Middlesex Superior Court Judge Bruce Henry, prohibits Sarah Blackwell and Nichole Coscia from violating the civil rights of the victim and all others in the Commonwealth based upon their actual or perceived sexual orientation. A violation of the injunction is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and two and a half years in the House of Correction, or if bodily injury results from such violation, a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in state prison.

"Unprovoked attacks cannot and will not be tolerated in Massachusetts. Beyond their devastating effects on individual victims, hate crimes are detrimental to the safety and well-being of our communities at large," said Attorney General Coakley. "Our office remains committed to enforcing the state's civil rights laws to protect residents and visitors to the Commonwealth and holding accountable those who threaten their safety."

According to the complaint filed on March 10, 2010, in Middlesex Superior Court, Blackwell and Coscia engaged in a vicious verbal and physical assault of the victim while he was riding as a passenger on the MBTA Orange Line train. The complaint alleges that after boarding the train at North Station, Blackwell and Coscia approached the victim and began taunting his appearance. When the victim did not respond, Coscia and Blackwell proceeded to repeatedly taunt him using anti-gay epithets in increasingly angry and agitated tones.

According to the complaint, due to the defendants' increased agitation the victim pushed the emergency call button to call for safety. The train attendant witnessing the incident stopped the train, and the victim ran into the next car where the attendant was stationed. Blackwell and Coscia followed the victim into the car and physically attacked the victim by kicking him with their boots and striking him in the face multiple times. Throughout the course of the assault, Blackwell and Coscia shouted anti-gay epithets at the victim. According to the complaint, fearing for the victim's safety, the train attendant placed himself between the victim and the attackers who continued to hit and kick the victim, until he eventually helped the victim into the train attendant's compartment to wait for MBTA Transit Police to arrive.

According to the complaint, when MBTA Transit Police arrived, Blackwell and Coscia continued a threatening and derogatory verbal assault and physically resisted arrest. The Middlesex District Attorney's Office is prosecuting Blackwell and Coscia for criminal violations.

The Attorney General's Office brought this action under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA), commonly referred to as the "hate crimes" statute. Under the MCRA, the Attorney General's Office may obtain injunctions against individuals who threaten, intimidate, or coerce victims because of their membership in a protected class - race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, for example - or because they are engaged in a protected activity, such as the right to use public ways or places, the right to vote, or the right to associate.

Since taking office in 2007, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has obtained 29 civil rights injunctions on behalf of victims of hate crimes, often working in close collaboration with police departments and District Attorney's offices throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to the prosecution of cases, the Civil Rights Division actively provides trainings to police officers, school personnel, and community groups to aid in the recognition and understanding of bias-motivated incidents and how to properly respond.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Patricio Rossi of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division, with the assistance of Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division, the MBTA Transit Police, and Lieutenant Detective Mark Gillespie, Commander of the Transit Police Criminal Investigations Unit.