Prosecuting hate

Posted on 08 May 2015 at 7:45am

Many LGBT people are threatened with violence because of who they are, but one Dallas man scored small a victory in court


Herschel Weisfeld


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Herschel Weisfeld doesn’t know why Stephan Yen singled him out.

Weisfeld was standing in the Wells Fargo branch on McKinney Avenue at Routh Street in Uptown, watching TV while waiting to speak to his bank officer, when a man he had never met approached him and demanded, “Stop checking out my ass.”

Weisfeld, who said he had been paying no attention to the man, later identified as Yen, continued to ignore him and went back to watching the news — until Yen approached him a second time.

“Aren’t you a Christian?” he asked Weisfeld, who is Jewish, and then said to anyone who would listen, indicating Weisfeld,

“He’s an abomination.”

When Yen approached him a third time and said, “I’m going to knock your teeth out, you fucking faggot,” Weisfeld called 911 as the bank manager escorted Yen into her office. She tried to diffuse the situation.

When the police came, Weisfeld said, Yen went ballistic: “He started raging at the cops.”

Weisfeld, a real estate investor and developer, said he was dressed for work, not wearing a T-shirt that made any kind of political statement or any other provocative clothing.

“I was just standing in the lobby to do banking business,” he said.

Weisfeld ran for Dallas City Council in 2013 against Adam Medrano. Since then, he’s been out of the public eye, and much of the time out of Dallas. But it’s possible that Yen recognized him from that political run.

The incident ended with Yen being arrested for making a “major disturbance (violence)” and charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

Weisfeld questioned why hate crime charges weren’t added. Doing so could have enhanced the penalty by increasing the crime from a Class C to a Class B Misdemeanor.

The $500 maximum fine assessable for a Class C misdemeanor would have increased to a $2,000 maximum with the hate crime charge added, and maximum jail time would have jumped to 180 days.

The incident took place on Oct. 8, 2014, and went before a municipal court judge this week on Tuesday, May 5.

Weisfeld has been living in Mexico, supervising a construction project in Puerto Vallarta. But he flew back to Dallas for the hearing, at his own expense.

When Yen came off the courthouse elevator with his attorney on Tuesday, Weisfeld was in the hall near the courtroom. As Yen walked into the courtroom, he yelled at Weisfeld, who was standing in the hallway nearby, “You scumbag. Same smile.”

After he saw the arresting police officer — who after all this time remembered the defendant quite well and commented that he was “a bad one” — as well the bank employee involved in the incident and Weisfeld, the defendant decided to plead “no contest.”

The judge imposed a $400 fine sentenced Yen to 90 days probation. The city attorney prosecuting the case had asked for 120 days.

Weisfeld said he considered getting a restraining order. But because he will be returning to Mexico soon, he chose simply to be cautious while in Dallas.

LGBT people are often threatened with violence simply for who they are. Weisfeld reacted to his threat by calling the police, filing a report and following through by speaking to city attorneys who would be prosecuting the case and traveling back to Dallas at his own expense for the trial.

While the fine for the defendant was small — equivalent to some traffic tickets — and probation just means Yen needs to stay out of trouble for the next three months, the sentence does say that Dallas doesn’t stand for these sort of threats or intimidation.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2015.

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