April 22, 2023
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA—A judge has dropped hate crime enhancement charges against an alleged assault suspect who attacked a Filipino family at a McDonald’s drive-thru in North Hollywood back in May 2022.
After more than a week of deliberating the case, Judge Neetu S. Badhan-Smith continued the preliminary hearing on April 17 against suspect Nicholas Weber.
Weber was initially charged with two felony batteries, both with hate crime enhancements. He pleaded not guilty last July, according to the San Fernando Valley Sun. Weber will instead be charged with only two counts of felony battery.
On May 13, 2022, Patricia Roque and her mother, Nerissa, were in the drive-thru of a McDonald’s on Victory Boulevard when a Jeep rear-ended them.
The two women called 911 and Roque’s father, Gabriel, for help.
“I didn’t even know him and we [were not] not doing anything,” said Nerissa.
Weber drove by them twice and mocked them using a fake Asian accent and saying, “You’re so Asian” and “I kill you” from inside his vehicle.
“Definitely threatening to kill us,” said Patricia. “Honestly, I thought it was going to end with that.”
When Roque’s father, Gabriel, arrived, the incident escalated into a physical altercation. Weber grabbed Nerissa’s neck, reports CBS News.
“It traumatized us,” said Nerissa.
When Gabriel tried to stop Weber from opening the door of the women’s car, he was punched and fell to the ground. Footage of the altercation shows the family and bystanders trying to restrain the man.
“I’m afraid to go out,” said Nerissa. “I’m afraid to go out [and] I keep telling my daughter to lock the door.”
Nerissa was punched in the chest and Gabriel suffered a broken rib in the fracas.
On Tuesday, April 18, 2023, the judge ruled that she would remove both hate crime enhancements. Although the defendant made “offensive and vulgar statements” against the family, the incident was “a general intent crime,” the judge stated.
The judge cited the time difference between the racial slurs being said, the alleged assault, and roughly 10-15 minutes Weber didn’t use more racial slurs after coming back. Also, Weber was seen on video—taken by Patricia—pushing a bystander before the alleged altercation with the Roques, reports the San Fernando Valley Sun.
“The tragedy is that those few minutes were enough for them to say that wasn’t a hate crime, but the Roque family has to live for the rest of their lives knowing that they were assaulted because they were Asian,” Dominico Vega, a volunteer for the Filipino Migrant Center, said. “That’s unfair. … Because what we witnessed in there is not justice.”
Weber is scheduled for another arraignment on May 1 before the case goes to trial.
Feature Screenshots via ABC7 News