A Manhattan man pleaded guilty Tuesday to hate crime charges for robbing five Chinese women, and attempting to rob a sixth woman, in separate incidents in Brooklyn, New York, according to the Brooklyn district attorney.
Manuel Israel, 21, targeted the six women for robberies because of their race and because he thought they wouldn't fight back or be able to identify him, Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement Wednesday. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun said he would sentence Israel to 12 years in prison on Nov. 9, the DA's office said.
"Hate crimes based on a person's race, gender, sexual identity or ethnicity destroy the fabric of our communities and will not be tolerated," Gonzalez said. "This defendant has now been held accountable."
The robberies and attempted robbery took place between last March 21 and April 6, according to the district attorney, in a neighborhood with a sizeable Chinese population. In each incident, Israel approached the women from behind, pulling on their handbags and causing them to fall, prosecutors said. He then grabbed their bags and fled, according to the district attorney.
In three of the cases, the women suffered injuries, including lacerations, bruising, and pain, prosecutors said.
Police caught Israel a little after midnight on April 6, 2015, roughly 20 minutes after attempting to rob a 23-year-old woman who was walking by herself, the DA's office said. Similar to the other cases, Israel repeatedly tugged on the woman's bag, making her fall to the ground, prosecutors said. Standing over her, Israel said, "Give me all of your money," the DA's office said.
According to investigators, a bystander saw Israel with his arm around the woman's neck, in an apparent struggle, and telephoned police, the district attorney said. Police arrested Israel about six blocks from the scene of the attempted robbery, prosecutors said.
Karlin Chan, a community organizer who earlier this year helped arrange hate crime forums for New York City's Chinese community, told NBC News he welcomed the guilty plea.
"I've been saying it all along for years, that Asians have always been targets of these crimes," Chan said.