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Social distancing dispute leads to hate crime charges against Florida doctor

Dr. Jennifer Wright is accused of using "anti-Hispanic ethnic slurs" and physically attacking a man after he mentioned "his Covid-19 spacing concerns."

A Florida woman faces hate crime charges after she was accused of hurling "anti-Hispanic ethnic slurs" at a man and physically attacking him during a social distancing dispute, authorities said.

The new charges against, Jennifer Susan Wright, 58, were announced Monday in connection with an argument that began in the checkout line at a Publix supermarket in Hialeah, about 13 miles northwest of Miami, according to NBC South Florida. The news station identified Wright as an anesthesiologist who was once affiliated with the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

A man, who has not been identified by authorities, mentioned "his Covid-19 spacing concerns" to Wright while they were inside the store on Jan. 20, according to a Miami-Dade State Attorney's office press release.

"Upon leaving the store, an angry Ms. Wright allegedly confronted the victim as he loaded his groceries into his car, coming within 1 foot of the victim's face," the press release states.

A Publix store in Hialeah, Fla.
A Publix store in Hialeah, Fla.Google Maps

"Again, the victim asked Ms. Wright to keep her distance which appeared to enrage her even more and allegedly led to an outburst of verbal anger including several derogatory anti-Hispanic ethnic slurs."

Prosecutors said that Wright is accused of using her keys to scratch the man's car from the trunk to the passenger rear door, causing $567.64 in damages. She then allegedly stabbed the man's car "with her keys while saying that the victim needed to go back to his country," the attorney's office said.

After the man grabbed his cellphone to call 911, Wright allegedly hit him with her fist, causing his phone to fall to the ground. She then allegedly kicked him when he bent down to pick it up and tried to "crush the phone to keep the victim from using it," according to the release.

"As Ms. Wright began to leave the scene, the victim attempted to take a picture of Ms. Wright or of her vehicle’s license plate. Ms. Wright then pretended to go into a vehicle that was not hers, but then ran toward her true vehicle and fled the scene," the state attorney's office said.

Wright was charged with battery with prejudice, criminal mischief with prejudice and tampering with a victim, all felonies.

“The allegations made against Dr. Wright are simply not true," Wright's attorney, Carlos F. Gonzalez, said in a statement to NBC South Florida. "We look forward to discrediting this ugly attack against our client that is filled with lies and twisted information to fit someone else’s political agenda.”

Mount Sinai Medical Center told the outlet that Wright is "no longer responsible for patient care pending the completion of a full investigation."