Guilty Verdict on Four of Five Dallas BBQ Assault Charges

Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin bashing a chair over Ethan York-Adams' head in video captured by a restaurant patron. | ISAAM SHAREF VIA YOUTUBE.COM

Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin bashing a chair over Ethan York-Adams' head in video captured by a restaurant patron. | ISAAM SHAREF VIA YOUTUBE.COM

After deliberating for roughly two days, a Manhattan jury convicted Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin on four of five felony charges resulting from a 2015 fight he had with two gay men in a Chelsea restaurant.

“There was no justification for this brutal attack,” Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said in a May 25 statement. “Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin struck both victims in a public restaurant with a heavy wooden chair, knocking one of them unconscious. I commend the victims for their courage and my office’s prosecutors for ensuring this defendant is held accountable for this horrific attack.”

The jurors, who appeared to be at loggerheads at points in their deliberations, found the 42-year-old guilty of two counts of attempted assault in the first degree for the fight with Jonathan Snipes, 33, and Ethan York-Adams, 26, and two counts of second-degree assault. El-Amin was acquitted on a fifth count that charged him with second-degree assault for allegedly stomping on Snipes’ head. When he is sentenced on June 14, El-Amin could get up to 15 years in prison.

Bayna-Lekheim El-Amin acquitted only on allegation he stomped on one victim’s head

Jurors began deliberating on May 23 and very quickly sent a note to Arlene Goldberg, the judge in the case, saying they could not reach a verdict. On the morning of May 25, jurors asked what would happen if they reached a verdict on only four of the five counts. They were then allowed to announce their verdicts on the four and instructed to continue deliberating on the outstanding charge of first-degree attempted assault on Snipes. They returned a guilty verdict on that charge later in the day.

The case has been fraught from the start.

The fight broke out on May 5, 2015 at the Dallas BBQ at Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street in Chelsea. The day after the fight, Snipes contacted the press claiming that he and York-Adams, his boyfriend at the time, had been the victims of a hate crime perpetrated by two men. One video showed El-Amin hitting York-Adams with a wooden chair as he and Snipes stood with their backs to El-Amin.

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

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

The incident received some press attention and one protest was organized outside the restaurant that included City Councilmember Corey Johnson and State Senator Brad Hoylman. Both are openly gay and both represent Chelsea.

More complete video of the incident, which went public a few months after the story broke, showed that it was Snipes who started the fight and only one man fought with Snipes. None of the charges against El-Amin was charged as a hate crime.

When he testified, Snipes said he heard someone say the word “faggot” and he believed that person was El-Amin so he hit him with his purse. The incident, which lasted about one minute, had three discrete parts and, at the start of the trial, prosecutor Leah Saxtein said that El-Amin was not charged with any crime in the first part, when he pounced on Snipes after being struck. In the videos that were played in court, Snipes appears to strike El-Amin in two of the parts.

The third part, where El-Amin used the wooden chair, was always the greatest threat to him because both Snipes and York-Adams are turned away from him. El-Amin’s attorney argued his client was acting in self-defense throughout the incident.

Both Snipes and York-Adams testified that they were drunk and both men received medical attention from an EMT following the incident. They both refused a trip to an emergency room, saying they did not have insurance and could not afford the trip. This suggested they did not believe their injuries were serious.

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