For Immediate Release - September 15, 2011

Somerville Man Accused of Hate Crime on Subway Ordered to Stay Away From Victims Under Order Obtained by AG Coakley's Office

BOSTON - A Somerville man has been ordered to stay away from two young women he verbally and physically assaulted based on their race and perceived sexual orientation under an injunction obtained by Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office.

Joseph Balistreri was accused of a bias-motivated assault against two women, ages 18 and 19, on the Orange Line in November 2010. Under the Consent Judgment, entered by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Frank M. Gaziano, Balistreri is prohibited from violating the civil rights of the victims and other persons in the Commonwealth based upon their race or sexual orientation. The Consent Judgment also prohibits Balistreri from being within 100 yards of the victims. 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.

"Hate crimes have detrimental effects on the victims and to the safety and well-being of our communities," AG Coakley said. "No one should fear for their safety because of who they are or how they are perceived."

"We will continue to work with Attorney General Coakley to ensure that our passengers are provided with a safe environment in the transit system," said MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan. "No one should be subjected to this type of behavior anywhere, let alone on the MBTA."

In addition, the Consent Judgment requires Balistreri to receive alcohol, substance abuse and mental health counseling services, to perform community service, and to provide the victims with written letters of apology.

Balistreri has admitted to the allegations in the complaint filed on February 3, in Suffolk Superior Court. According to that complaint, Balistreri engaged in a verbal and physical assault of the victims late at night in November 2010. Balistreri, completely unprovoked, approached the two young women on an Orange Line train near Sullivan Square Station. Perceiving the victims to be an interracial lesbian couple, Balistreri repeatedly yelled racist and homophobic epithets at them, spat on them, threatened to kill them, and kicked one of them in the face, at which time the victims dialed 911 and Balistreri ran off the train.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Transit Police later issued a wanted poster for Balistreri using video footage from the train station, which resulted in several tips that allowed the Transit Police to identify and arrest Balistreri. Judge John C. Cratsley issued a preliminary injunction against Balistreri on February 9.

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.

Working directly with the MBTA Transit Police, this is the fifth civil rights injunction that Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has obtained on behalf of victims assaulted or threatened on public buses or subways in the past 18 months. 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 was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Joanna Lydgate and Gabrielle Viator of AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Dante Annicelli of the Investigations Division, Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division, and Detective Terence J. Leonard, Jr. of the MBTA Transit Police. The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Balistreri criminally.