SAN DIEGO (KGTV and CNS) — A felony assault charge with a hate crime allegation has been filed against a man who allegedly assaulted a 16-year-old Syrian refugee and used a racial epithet during the attack while the two rode a San Diego trolley.
Adrian Vergara, 26, pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday afternoon.
Vergara hid from view Thursday with his head down, at one point standing on the table with his back to the judge.
Prosecutors say the victim was on the trolley speaking to his friend in Arabic when Vergara reportedly asked “what trash are you speaking.”
When the victim replied that he was speaking Arabic, Vergara reportedly hit the man repeatedly in the face.
"The defendant started saying 'F***ing' Arabs, and he began assaulting the teenager while he sat on the trolley," said deputy district attorney Leonard Trinh.
Trinh says Vergara hit the boy 5 to 6 times, causing minor injuries to below his eye.
The victim has not come forward, but released a statement Wednesday through an agency.
"My parents brough us to this country so that we may be safe and go to school and have better lives, and this attack brought fear to them," the victim said. "However, I am very happy I reported this crime and that the attacker was found."
Vergara is being held without bail because he violated probation for a prior robbery and vehicle theft. He faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted of the assault by force likely to cause great body injury, which carries hate crime escalation.
10News Wednesday learned that Vergara has a history of violence.
In 2012, documents say he threatened a man with a club. In 2013, Vergara completed an anger management program.
In 2015, a case was dismissed accusing Vergara of attacking another man and in 2016, he was charged with grand theft and burglary for breaking into the Central Library.
In late 2016, documents show Vergara violated a restraining order against his ex-girlfriend, kicking her front door, texting her and in a phone call, cursing at her and saying, "if you don't talk to me I'm going to go to your job and cause a scene. I don't care about my life."
Documents show he called her 20 times in 30 minutes.
Court documents also show a carjacking charge at the beginning of 2017.
Later in 2017, Vergara was charged for beating a man at the MTS Imperial Transit Center.
The most recent document shows he violated a court order, put in place to prevent domestic violence in January 2019.