HUDSON — The case of an alleged assault of a city man on Monday will be presented to a Columbia County grand jury.
Lance M. Fongemie, 35, was arraigned on a charge of second-degree assault, a class D violent felony. City Judge Brian Herman set bail at $1,000 at Fongemie’s arraignment late Tuesday in city court.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka asked for no bail and that the defendant be taken to Columbia County Jail without any possibility of release, given the violent nature of the alleged offense. Second-degree assault is a violent felony and punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to state law.
Fongemie was taken into custody by Hudson police around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Fongemie, who is homeless, was found by police crouched in a wooded area next to the train tracks in the vicinity of Green Street.
While some on social media have referred to the assault as a hate crime, police at this time have characterized it as the outcome of a fight between two individuals and are continuing to investigate whether it should be treated as a hate crime, Police Chief L. Edward Moore said Tuesday at the Common Council meeting at City Hall, 520 Warren St.
“There is a lot of discussion whether it will be charged as a hate crime,” Moore said Tuesday night. “We haven’t charged it as that yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be down the road.”
The alleged victim, Brett Worth of Hudson, alleged Tuesday that Fongemie called him a “faggot,” a derogatory word for a gay man, before the alleged assault. The two engaged in a verbal argument before Fongemie allegedly threw the first punch. Worth attempted to punch back but fell to the ground mid-swing. Worth was punched several times and was knocked out as Fongemie allegedly continued to punch him in the head.
Worth suffered a broken nose and a broken bone under his eye; he received 9 stitches on his brow. His injuries will require surgery in the coming months, Worth’s friend, Justin Weaver said Tuesday.
The case will be transferred to Columbia County Court because city court has no jurisdiction over felony cases, Moore said.
Czajka said other charges may be pending, given the outcome of the grand jury proceedings. Grand juries, unlike trial juries, do not determine whether a defendant is guilty. Grand juries determine if there is enough evidence to bring formal criminal charges against a person and whether to move a case to trial.
“There’s been a lot out in the public regarding whether this was a bias-related crime,” Moore said. “By bringing it up on the county level, we have a lot of tools at our disposal, for grand jury, further investigation, and we always have the ability to upgrade the charge.”
Fongemie has a prior criminal record, according to court papers.
He was convicted in 2012 by plea in Hudson City Court of third-degree assault, a class A misdemeanor; and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. Fongemie allegedly assaulted a 33-year-old woman with a bottle, a wooden handle and a crowbar. He also allegedly obstructed her breathing. On Aug. 30, 2012, he was sentenced to time served and 3 years probation. An order of protection was issued on behalf of the victim.
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