Florida prosecutors announced Monday that they are pursuing hate crime charges against a South Florida doctor accused of attacking a Hispanic man at a supermarket.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced her office is charging Dr. Jennifer Susan Wright, 58, with felony counts of battery with prejudice, criminal mischief with prejudice and tampering with a victim or witness. Wright was originally arrested last month, several weeks after the attack was reported.
“It is sad that in such a diverse, multi-ethnic community like Miami-Dade County, COVID precautions can trigger such alleged outbursts of ethnic hate," Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "Hate crimes are always meant to demean and intimidate their intended targets.”
While waiting in line at a Hialeah supermarket on Jan. 20, Wright became angered after the victim asked her in Spanish to keep her distance because of COVID-19 guidelines, officials said. Hialeah is a heavily Hispanic suburb of Miami.
Wright ignored the man, so he repeated it in English, according to authorities. Once outside, Wright walked up to the man in the parking lot, and he asked her to back up, officials said, adding the doctor then uttered racial and other insults against him.
According to the arrest report, Wright stabbed the victim’s vehicle with her keys while saying he needed to go back to his country and then punched and kicked the man. Wright drove away before police could respond. Officials said the attack took place the day President Joe Biden took office.
"We are surprised that the State of Florida would look to try this case in the public especially before providing the defense with all the evidence it has purportedly gathered," said Coral Gables attorney Carlos F. Gonzalez in the statement to NBC 6. "Our client has received numerous threats of violence in connection with this case and we hope that the State Attorney's comments are not seen as permission by some to act on those threats."
Wright had been an anesthesiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Hospital officials announced after her arrest that Wright, who was contracted to work there, was no longer responsible for patient care at the Miami Beach hospital.