For Immediate Release - February 11, 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 allegedly verbally and physically assaulted based on their race and perceived sexual orientation under an injunction obtained by Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office. Suffolk Superior Court Judge John C. Cratsley ordered the injunction on February 9, against Joseph Balistreri, who is accused of a bias-motivated assault against two women, ages 18 and 19, on the Orange Line in November 2010.

The order specifically prohibits Balistreri from violating the civil rights of the victims and all others in the Commonwealth based upon race or sexual orientation and prohibits him 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.

According to the complaint filed on February 3, in Suffolk Superior Court, Balistreri engaged in a verbal and physical assault of the victims late at night in November 2010. The complaint alleges that 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 MBTA 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.

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 43 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.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking a permanent injunction against Balistreri.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Joanna Lydgate 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 is prosecuting Balistreri criminally.

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