A San Francisco couple accused of hate crimes stemming from the assault of a transgender woman in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood Sunday claim they acted in self-defense and pleaded not guilty before a judge this afternoon.
The accused suspects, identified as Dewayne Edward Kemp, 36, and Rebecca Louise Westover, 42, were arrested shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Sunday near the intersection of Eighth and Mission streets for allegedly assaulting the victim, identified as transgender San Francisco resident Samantha Hulsey.
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Blair McGregor listed both Kemp and Westover’s previous felony convictions before the judge today and noted that Hulsey has no criminal record.
San Francisco police said the attack by Kemp and Westover, who share a residence in San Francisco, appears to have been bias-motivated against persons from a protected class.
This incident is the second time this year that Hulsey has apparently been the target of a hate crime on the streets of San Francisco.
McGregor told Judge Edward Torpoco today that witnesses and the police report support the victim’s statements alleging that the pair made “transphobic” comments and physically assaulted her. He said Kemp punched Hulsey four times in the face.
“These individuals are a distinct public safety threat to our community,” McGregor told the judge today.
McGregor said Hulsey identifies as female-gendered and that the transphobic statements included the use of the term “fagot.”
Hulsey’s friend Rae Raucci, a law student and transgender woman, stated via Facebook this week that Hulsey, and her girlfriend Daira Hopwood, were accosted by a couple shouting obscenities at them.
The woman threw a cup of hot coffee on them, and the man punched Hulsey in the face, according to Raucci.
The two victims were taken to the hospital for treatment and Raucci said Hulsey suffered cuts to her face.
Kwixuan Maloof, an attorney with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office representing Kemp, described a different scenario to the judge, one in which the alleged suspects were in fact victims defending themselves from Hulsey.
Maloof told the judge that Kemp was walking with Westover, “minding his own business” when Hulsey barged between the pair on the sidewalk.
Kemp said, “Doesn’t anyone say excuse me anymore?” and Hulsey stops, turns around and hurls insults at Kemp.
Maloof said Hulsey provoked his client by using a racial slur, the n-word, when speaking to Kemp, a black man.
San Francisco police said Westover threw coffee at Hulsey, prompting Hulsey and Westover to exchange swings.
Maloof claims Kemp saw his fiancé being attacked by a man dressed as a woman and punched Hulsey in order to defend Westover.
San Francisco police, however, said at least three witnesses corroborated that the suspects made homophobic or transphobic comments at the victim prior to being assaulted.
The incident was also captured on video surveillance that has been collected and is being analyzed, police said.
Westover’s attorney, Murray Zisholz, told Judge Torpoco that Hulsey is about 80 pounds heavier than his client and also, legally male. He said that Kemp was trying to defend Westover from a man who was both significantly heavier and taller than his client.
Maloof said that swings were exchanged between Kemp and Hulsey, but that “When you have a man, I don’t care if he identifies as a woman, swing at a woman” it’s defensible.
“I don’t care if that man is wearing a dress or not,” Maloof told the judge today.
Maloof also said that Kemp and Westover tried to file charges against Hulsey, but that police instead arrested them.
Kemp was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault likely to cause great bodily injury, conspiracy, criminal threats, with hate crime enhancements, as well as a parole violation, police said.
Westover was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and conspiracy, with hate crime enhancements, as well as for being a person convicted of a felony in possession of pepperspray, according to police.
Judge Torpoco said that the police reports do not make Hulsey out to be the aggressor and said that their criminal past led him not to release the pair from jail on their own recognizance.
The judge ordered Kemp’s bail to be set at $473,000 and for Westover’s to be set at $373,000.
A criminal protective order was also issued to protect Hulsey, should the pair post bond.
A preliminary hearing has been tentatively set for Dec. 2, according to the judge.
Maloof asked for discovery information to be turned over from the previous assault that Hulsey reported in January and any others, including those possibly made when she resided in Savannah, Georgia.
In the previous attack against Hulsey, on January 3, Hulsey and Raucci had exited a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus in the city’s Civic Center neighborhood when a man stabbed Hulsey multiple times.
Police said that in that incident the victims were sitting toward the back of a Muni bus when a man approached them.
Raucci said the man harassed them repeatedly and called the pair derogatory names.
“We were both on the bus together when a man across the way accused us both of defrauding him by pretending to be female,” Raucci wrote in January.
The pair then decided to get off the bus to get away from him, but the man also got off the bus brandishing a knife, Raucci wrote.
Raucci said that the man then stabbed Hulsey twice in the upper chest. Hulsey was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with stab wounds, where she received 10 stitches.
That attack led to the arrest of San Francisco resident Brodes Wayne Joynes.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon vowed to prosecute Joynes aggressively for the alleged hate crime and his office said that Joynes could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on all charges.
This week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee condemned the hatred and intolerance that is believed to have been behind Sunday’s attack.
“There is never an excuse for violence in our communities, and while much progress has been made in the last decade to advance transgender rights, anti-transgender violence sadly still exists,” Lee said.
Lee applauded the San Francisco Police Department’s quick apprehension and arrest of the two suspects in the attack.
“This incident is a stark reminder that greater awareness is needed to end bullying, discrimination and violence against our transgender community,” Lee said.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News