Maricia Bell of Queens allegedly attacked three women and a man, including a 63- and 75-year-old, in four separate incidents over the span of several months beginning on May 23, prosecutors said Saturday.
According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Bell was arraigned on a complaint charging her with assault, robbery, and grand larceny, all as hate crimes, as well as weapons possession and harassment charges.
“Racism is immoral and unacceptable—acting on one’s prejudice is a crime. This defendant must answer for allegedly attacking four different victims—all people of Asian descent—during sudden, violent outburst(s) of rage here in Queens County,” Katz said in a press release statement.
According to the New York Post, Bell has five prior arrests. In March, the 25-year-old was charged with assault as a hate crime.
In the most recent attack, on July 21, a 75-year-old woman was struck on the head with a hammer, causing injuries. Bell is also alleged to have struck a woman on the back of the head inside a bodega on June 16, and the following month, on July 11, she allegedly slapped a woman in the face and removed her face mask.
Bell’s next court appearance is on Aug. 16. If convicted, she faces a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
It comes amid an apparent increase in hate crimes against Asians over the last year. In 16 of the country’s largest cities, there was an increase to 122 incidents in 2020 from 49 the previous year, according to an analysis by researchers from California State University (CSU) in San Bernardino.
Democrats have tried to blame white supremacists for anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, alleging that former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric around the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus spurred hate.
President Joe Biden on May 20 signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.). It designates a Justice Department employee to expedite a review of hate crimes reported to police during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also provides guidance for state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, expand public education campaigns, and issue guidance to combat discriminatory language in describing the pandemic.