SEATTLE - A Seattle-area teacher brutally assaulted in the city's Chinatown-International District said the pain she felt during the attack is "nothing" compared to how she feels knowing her assailant won't be charged with a hate crime.
"[He] stood in a corner and waited for a victim to arrive," Noriko Nasu said. "He went out of his way to avoid a non-Asian male in order to strike an Asian female ... If this is not a hate crime, then what is it?"
Nasu, a Japanese language teacher for the Northshore School District, told her story Monday at an event held by Gov. Jay Inslee and King County leaders to condemn violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.
According to court documents, Nasu parked in the neighborhood about 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 25. and walked to a corner to meet her boyfriend. As the couple walked back toward her vehicle, 41-year-old Sean Holdip reportedly approached her and repeatedly hit her in the face with a rock-filled sock.
Holdip is also accused of attacking Nasu's boyfriend while she lay unconscious in the road.
"He knocked me unconscious, leaving me with fractures in the nose and cheek, broken teeth and a concussion," she recalled. "I'm still having persistent migraines, dizziness and brain fog, to a point where I can barely function.
"However, all of this pain was nothing compared to what came next," she continued.
The suspect has since been charged with two counts of second-degree assault, but not with a hate crime.
"The worst case, he could be free after 12-14 months in prison and could come back to Chinatown to attack more people," she said.
Nasu expressed frustration with the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office for its "hesitancy and inability" to charge her attacker with a hate crime.
"Even if he didn't say anything anti-Asian, his actions speak for themselves," she said. "Even more shocking is that even if he's charged with a hate crime, it doesn't add anymore jail time to the sentence."
The Prosecuting Attorney's Office countered that the felony assault charges against Holdip carry a longer sentence than a stand-alone hate crime charge.
Second-degree assault charges typically carry a 12-14 month prison sentence, but prosecutors said they intend to prove Nasu's injuries were excessive, a distinction that would allow a judge to increase Holdip's sentence to a maximum of 10 years.
"At this point, based on the evidence received from investigators, we have not filed this case as a hate crime because, as horrible as this attack was, we do not believe we can prove a hate crime before a jury beyond a reasonable doubt," the Prosecuting Attorney's Office said.
That could change if investigators submit more evidence or statements from the suspect.
"We take hate crimes seriously, including the disturbing national trend of hate crimes against Asian Americans," the prosecutor's office said.
Nasu said her story is one of many that highlights the alarming increase in violence against Asian-American communities.
State Rep. My-Linh Thai, who represents parts of East King County, said her mother is scared to walk to the Renton library because of the rise in crimes targeting Asian-Americans.
"I feel as if I was abused twice, first by the attacker and second by the legal system," Nasu said. "I'm just horrified to know that so many of us have experienced or are experiencing this hate, and yet nothing has been done. We feel ignored. We want justice. And we want action. Now."
Nasu's alleged attacker remains in the King County Jail on a $100,000 bail.
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