For Immediate Release - June 21, 2013

Somerville Man Arraigned, Ordered Held in Connection with Harassment of an MBTA Employee

Defendant Previously Engaged in Bias-Motivated Attack on MBTA Riders

BOSTON – A Somerville man has been arraigned and ordered held on $10,000 bail in connection with a pattern of racially-motivated harassment and threats against an MBTA employee, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

Joseph Balistreri, 39, was arraigned on charges of Violation of a Permanent Injunction (3 counts), Threats (2 counts), and Criminal Harassment. The Attorney General’s Office previously obtained the injunction against the defendant after he engaged in a bias-motivated attack on two MBTA riders in 2010. Among other requirements, the injunction prohibited the defendant from threatening any person because of his or her race.

Beginning in the summer of 2012 Balistreri allegedly engaged in multiple incidents of bias-motivated threats and harassment against an African-American MBTA employee. All of these incidents occurred at Sullivan Station on the MBTA Orange Line.

According to authorities, Balistreri initially targeted the MBTA employee after being asked to extinguish his cigarette in a nonsmoking area of Sullivan Station. Balistreri allegedly threatened and harassed the MBTA employee, using racial epithets, on multiple occasions through February 2013 when asked to stop smoking on MBTA property.

In March 2013, Balistreri was observed punching a Charlie Card machine. When asked if he needed assistance, Balistreri allegedly verbally assaulted the MBTA employee and threatened him. Authorities allege that one week later Balistreri was observed taking pictures of the MBTA employee. When the employee confronted him, Balistreri allegedly responded with racial epithets, threatened him and further stated that he and his friends would kill him. 

The Civil Rights Division of the AG’s Office obtained the injunction against Balistreri through a final judgment by consent after he engaged in an unprovoked physical and verbal assault on two female undergraduate students that was motivated by racial and homophobic bias.  The injunction specifically prohibits Balistreri from violating the civil rights of the victims in that case and all others in the Commonwealth based upon race or sexual orientation. The AG’s Office obtained the injunction under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA), commonly referred to as the “hate crimes” statute. Under the MCRA, the AG’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 exercising their right to vote or associate.

Indictments were returned against Balistreri on June 7. Balistreri was arraigned Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court where he pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $10,000 bail. He is due back in court on July 25 for a pre-trial conference. Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson presided over the arraignment.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Marina Moriarty with assistance from Victim Witness Advocate Ashley Cinelli and the MBTA Transit Police.

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