[UPDATE AS OF FEBRUARY 3: In his first public statement since his January 17 beating, Randy Gener said that though he cannot yet remember the incident, allegations in the criminal complaint lodged against his suspected assailant that he kicked a woman in the chest prior to the man punching him to the ground are at odds with anything he has ever before done.
In a February 3 email, Gener's husband, Steve Nesbit, said an earlier version of this story was the first thing Gener has read since being hospitalized immediately after being assaulted.
Nesbit wrote: “Randy read your Article today. The first info he has read. While he still cannot remember the incident he does deny that he has EVER been aggressive or violent against women. Same story both I and his sister gave police.”
Gener and his family were “baffled” to learn that the suspected assailant, Leighton Jennings, is facing two misdemeanor charges rather than the felony charge police originally announced. They learned about the reduced charges from Gay City News on January 31, two days after the Manhattan district attorney's office arraigned Jennings on the misdemeanor charges.]
On the same day that an NYPD spokesman told Gay City News that the alleged assailant of a gay arts journalist had been arrested on a felony assault charge, the Manhattan district attorney’s office, at a court appearance by the defendant, presented a criminal complaint indicating he was instead facing two misdemeanor third-degree assault charges.
The complaint also alleges that the victim, 46-year-old Randy Gener, was physically aggressive in an early morning confrontation on January 17 that led up to the assault, in which he suffered trauma to his head that required surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. The incident, according to the NYPD, took place shortly after 2 a.m. on Seventh Avenue, between 54th and 55th Street, less than a block from Gener’s apartment.
Leighton Jennings, a 24-year-old resident of Jamaica, Queens, was arrested on the evening of January 28, according to the criminal complaint.
Gener’s husband, Stephen Nisbet, and sister, Jessica Blair-Driessler, said that Gener was likely to face a long convalescence and may need additional surgeries, but declined to go into more detail about his condition or his prospects for a full recovery.
Criminal complaint cites witness involved in fracas with victim prior to his assault who says Gener was also physically aggressive
Because the assault did not involve robbery and resulted in injuries that have kept Gener in the hospital for two weeks, there was speculation that it may have been a hate crime motivated by his sexual orientation or the fact that he is Filipino American. In fact, the complaint indicates that the case was handled by the department’s Bias Incident Investigations Unit, and Blair-Driessler told Gay City News that a member of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau LGBT liaison team attended a January 26 vigil for Gener and spoke to her there.
The criminal complaint, presented at Jennings’ January 29 arraignment and based on information police obtained from two witnesses, paints a picture at odds with speculation that Gener was targeted in the attack based on bias. It cites one witness who says she bumped into Gener and “as she walked forward the guy [Gener] bumped her back… the informant threw her clutch purse at the guy's head and missed.” At that point, according to the woman, Gener kicked her in the chest and Jennings got out of his car. The woman told police, “the guy kicked the defendant [Jennings] in the stomach… the defendant punched the guy one time in the face and… the guy fell back to the concrete.”
According to published press reports based on police sources, the woman was a companion of Jennings.
The complaint mentions a second witness who said only that he saw “a man punch another man in the face with a fist which caused the male who was hit to fall to the ground and strike his head on the sidewalk.” That witness told police that Gener remained on the ground until they arrived.
According to DNAinfo.com, a taxi driver was responsible for giving police the license plate number of a suspect in the case that was released publicly one day before Jennings’ arrest. DNA also cited police sources who said Jennings was accompanied by two women and another man.
The complaint said that, according to Officer Fredrick Crump of the Midtown North Precinct, Gener was “conscious but disoriented” at the time police arrived on the scene.
The complaint makes no reference to any statements Gener may have made to police about the incident.
Nisbet and Blair-Driessler were unaware that Jennings had been charged with misdemeanor rather than felony assault or of the contents of the criminal complaint when contacted on January 31.
“We are baffled by the reduction of charges against Randy's assailant,” Nisbet said.
Jennings, who was released without bail on his own recognizance, is next scheduled to appear in court on March 11.
Gener’s assault led to two large community gatherings aimed at showing him support. About 70 people turned out at the January 26 vigil, held at the crime scene. The following evening, the Filipino-American Press Club and other groups held a prayer vigil and press conference at the Consulate General of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue in Midtown. The consul-general of the Philippines in New York, Ambassador Mario de Leon, praised Gener’s contributions to the city’s Filipino-American community and read a statement from José L. Cuisia Jr., the Filipino ambassador to the United States.
Gener’s family will hold a fundraiser on February 23 at 11 a.m. at the Filipino restaurant the Purple Yam Filipino (purpleyamnyc.com) on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, with more details to follow. The family also set up a charity link to raise funds for his care at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-randy-gener/130589.
Anyone with additional information about the crime can report it anonymously to the police department at 1-800-577-TIPS. The New York City Anti-Violence Project’s bilingual hotline is 212-714-1141 and its website is avp.org. –– Additional reporting by Michael Luongo