Dallas BBQ Accuser Says He Didn’t Know Who Called Him “Faggot”

A photo of Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin released by the police. | NYPD DCPI

A surveillance photo of Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin at Dallas BBQ released last year by the police. | NYPD DCPI

Jonathan Snipes believed that he and his boyfriend had been the victims of an anti-gay hate crime in a Chelsea restaurant last year. He told dnainfo.com that he was attacked after confronting two men who called him a “faggot.”

But when Snipes testified in the trial of Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin, his sole accused attacker, he told jurors that he did not know who used that anti-gay slur and admitted that he landed the first blow and one more before El-Amin smashed a chair over his boyfriend’s head.

“Did I know specifically who at the table said it? No,” Snipes said of the “faggot” slur during his May 18 testimony in Manhattan Supreme Court.

On May 5, 2015, Snipes, now 33, and his then boyfriend, Ethan York-Adams, who was then 25, had some drinks at a Chelsea bar before they arrived at Dallas BBQ at Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street sometime before 11:00 p.m. Snipes testified that he was drunk.

Upon receiving news via Facebook that a relative was sick, Snipes became upset and argued with York-Adams over whether they should stay in the restaurant or immediately leave. One of the four videos that were played in court on May 18 shows York-Adams physically restraining Snipes as he heads toward the exit. Snipes told jurors they “definitely were drawing a lot of attention to ourselves.”

At some point in this argument, which was seconds long in the video, or perhaps before it, the allegation is that someone called them “faggots.” Snipes believed that it came from the table that El-Amin, 42, was sitting at with friends. He quickly marched to the table and struck El-Amin with his purse, which held his keys, a sunglasses case, a cellphone charger, and his résumé. In the four seconds that elapsed between his breaking away from York-Adams and hitting El-Amin, Snipes said El-Amin made additional comments that led him to believe that El-Amin was the original offender.

“I hit the defendant with my purse because he was the one responding,” Snipes testified.

It is not known if El-Amin is gay, but Percy Gayanilo, his attorney, said during his opening statement that his client has been “a leader in the LGBT community for 19 years.”

Of the four videos that were played in court, only one had audio and that video only captured the final seconds of the fight between El-Amin and Snipes. While the audio was poor, the word “faggot” was not audible.

The videos show the fight beginning when Snipes hit El-Amin, who jumped up and lunged at Snipes forcing him to the ground. Snipes can be seen striking El-Amin a second time as he is backing away from El-Amin and before they fall. Once down, Snipes charged, El-Amin kicked him repeatedly and continued calling him a “faggot.”

The videos show the two men being separated and El-Amin turning his back to Snipes, who appears to be rearing back preparing to deliver a blow with his right fist. The two men go to the floor again with the much larger El-Amin forcing Snipes down. Snipes, who weighs 145 pounds to El-Amin’s 260, said he was again kicked and stomped on by the defendant, with the anti-gay slurs continuing.

The men were separated again by restaurant staff, El-Amin’s friends, and York-Adams. At this moment, the defense asserted, York-Adams joined the fray by pushing El-Amin back and onto the floor.

Snipes and York-Adams had their backs to El-Amin when the older man can be seen picking up a wooden chair and hitting York-Adams, who collapsed unconscious on the floor. Snipes fell into a nearby chair and El-Amin exited the restaurant.

The defense argued that Snipes was preparing to pick up a tray to use as a weapon and York-Adams was restraining him when El-Amin delivered the blow with the chair.

Leah Saxtein, the prosecutor on the case, said during her May 17 opening statement that El-Amin, who is facing five low level felony charges, is not accused of committing any crime during the first part of the struggle.

The case began in 2015 with the community expressing certainty that this was a hate crime and a brutal assault made all the more heinous because it occurred in Chelsea, the heart of white gay New York City.

“The NYPD takes these types of incidents very seriously,” Corey Johnson, the out gay city councilmember who represents Chelsea, told Gay City news during a protest outside Dallas BBQ days after the incident. “At this time, they have determined this to be a hate crime… This was a brutal, out-of-control attack. That's unacceptable.”

As the investigation progressed, it became clear that the Manhattan district attorney did not believe this was a hate crime – none of the five felonies is charged as a hate crime.

The trial is rendering the incident murkier, as well.

Snipes, who was on the stand for nearly the entire day on May 18, conceded when cross examined by Gayanilo that he has been involved in fights before when he was insulted.

“Have I been in a fight before because someone called me a name?” he said. “Yes, I’ve had altercations before.”

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