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Woman gets probation in attack on Spanish-speaking women

July 1, 2022 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman charged with attacking a mother and daughter for speaking Spanish in 2020 has been found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Stephanie Armstrong was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation following a two-day, non-jury trial in Boston Municipal Court in the majority Latino East Boston neighborhood where the attack took place.

Prosecutors say Armstrong and another woman assaulted a mother and her teenage daughter outside a subway station because they believed the two were making fun of them in Spanish.

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden, whose office prosecuted the case, said he was pleased Armstrong was convicted of assault, but found it “terribly disappointing” she wasn’t also convicted of civil rights violations, which was the other charge the pair faced.

“This unforgivable assault exposed an ugly side of our society that my office—and I hope every caring citizen—will never tolerate,” Hayden said in a statement.

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Armstrong’s lawyer William Barabino said his client is a member of the LGBTQ community and would “never do anything to interfere with anyone else’s civil rights and the acquittals of both civil right violations confirms that.”

Her co-defendant, Jenny Leigh Ennamorati, was sentenced to 15 months probation in February after agreeing to a plea deal with prosecutors. Her lawyer didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Friday.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, an organization representing the victims, said the sentences handed down were too “lax” and that the defendants should have faced jail time.

The group said the trial “retraumatized” Sara Vasquez and her daughter, who was 15 at the time of the attack, and would deter other victims of hate crimes from coming forward.

“By failing to meaningfully sentence the assailants, the legal system exacerbates racism and bigotry,” the organization said in a statement. “Every individual should be free to walk their communities and speak their native language without fear of violence.”

Vasquez said she and her daughter were walking home from dinner when Armstrong and Ennamorati attacked them, unprovoked.

Vasquez said the women, who at the time were both 25-year-old residents of nearby Revere, Massachusetts, shouted, “This is America,” and told them to “speak English” and “go back to your (obscenity) country” as they punched, kicked and bit them.

Civil rights groups at the time said the attack, which was captured on surveillance video, highlighted the “racism and xenophobia” increasingly common in East Boston as the neighborhood experienced a demographic shift amid a building boom.