Alexander Wright, the 48-year-old homeless man charged with sucker-punching an Asian woman on Monday, reportedly has 41 prior arrests. Since his 17th birthday, the man has committed armed robberies, several assaults, and arson according to a rap sheet provided by Daily Mail.
Wright has been arrested several times in the past year, including an unprovoked attack on a 72-year-old man in July, in which Wright struck the man with a closed fist. That, and several other cases are still open, though New York City laws forced authorities to let him back on the street. Prosecutors are now requesting high bail to keep Alexander Wright in jail while they try him for his crimes.
According to Manhattan assistant district attorney William Darling, Wright “pled guilty to two violent crimes in New York County only four days ago,” for throwing “a rock through a window, causing damage to the window, and minutes later” he “grabbed a stranger by the face, scratching the victim’s face causing lacerations to his face and substantial pain.”
Alexander Wright also pled guilty to throwing “hot coffee into the faces and eyes of two traffic officers,” says Darling, who then described Monday’s incident in which Wright sucker-punched an Asian woman completely unprovoked “with a closed fist so hard that her hat flew off her head, she fell to the ground, and lost consciousness.”
Darling then pleaded with the judge, recommending Alexander Wright be put in jail for 364 days. Angela Badamo, the judge on the case, thoroughly agreed, and will likely set bail at $15,000 cash. The suspect in Monday’s hate crime has a particularly troubled history, having been arrested 41 times, including several armed robberies and assaults.
Surveillance video shows Alexander Wright, who currently lives in a homeless shelter on Wards Island in New York, punching the 55-year-old woman unprovoked, before turning to the crowd and screaming, “Do you wanna fight me?”
One passerby, Jin Zhen, was recording the incident on their phone when Wright turned to him. “I dropped my food, if I have to get down with this guy, I have to,” Zhen said. “He came up to me and looked at me, that’s when I showed him the camera, and I don’t know if that aggravated him. And I was getting ready to fight for myself if I have to. He just opened his arms and said, ‘She hit me. Someone hit me.'”
Zhen then ran to a nearby police station and alerted authorities of Wright’s whereabouts. The homeless man was captured by police and charged with assault as a hate crime, assault, and criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was then escorted to Bellevue Hospital for a psych evaluation.
Though the judge will likely set bail at $15,000 and Wright will spend time behind bars, many are questioning why it took so long for the justice system to act. After 41 prior arrests, several of which were made in the last year, the people of New York believe Alexander Wright is too dangerous to be allowed back on the street, not serving time for his proven crimes. Some point to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I have not (seen the video) but I certainly am deeply concerned,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference. “We had a spate of horrible attacks against Asian Americans. They are unacceptable. We have encouraged everyone to come forward. We’ve got to stop Asian hate, that’s the bottom line. We have a very strong Asian Crime Task Force in the NYPD, which is doing really powerful work, including undercover work, which has captured several assailants.”
According to community activist Karlin Chan, de Blasio’s words are not enough. Many believe the whole system is marred by the New York City mayor. “The whole problem goes back to the mayor failing the whole city here,” Chan said. “He is trying to mask a problem by putting the homeless, even some EDPs, into hotels. It’s shameful that he is using seven hotels in this Chinatown area.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea had stronger opinions: “What’s the common denominator? People that are arrested, multiple, multiple, multiple times and released. Mental illness is woven into this, potentially. We have to do better. And we are arresting somebody for pushing a woman down the stairs, and then we release them back into the streets. I mean, this is craziness.”
Bail reform seems to be at the center of the controversy, as Mayor Bill de Blasio supports a liberalized bail policy that protects poorer individuals from making up a higher percentage of those in jail. Though it has honorable intentions, many point out the ease at which repeat offenders are allowed back on the streets, many of whom offend again.
When asked by the New York Post, one New York City local explained that “we have a problem here, and the mayor is not going to pull the wool over every New Yorker’s eyes and say crime is down and we have homelessness under control. Let’s look at what’s happening here.”