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Fresno Man Won't Face Hate Crime Charges in Porchfest Attack
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 10, 2024

Francisco Samaniego (in black) is seen allegedly fighting with three Palestinian supporters at the April 27 Porchfest. The charges he faces do not include hate crime. (GV Wire/Screengrab)

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A Fresno man who fought with Palestinian advocates will not face hate crime charges.

Francisco Samaniego, 49, appeared in Fresno County Superior Court on Friday, accused of one felony count of second-degree robbery and three misdemeanor battery counts. He was freed on $61,000 bail.

Samaniego did not enter a plea. A judge continued the arraignment until May 16.

Fresno police arrested Samaniego on April 27 at Porchfest, the Tower District neighborhood festival, after they say he got into a verbal confrontation with three women that turned physical. Witnesses said Samaniego harassed the women over their support of Palestine. A video shot by a witness showed Samaniego and the women in a fight in the street.

Police initially charged Samaniego with a hate crime, although District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp did not follow through.

DA: Hamas Not a Protected Class

The DA’s office news release said “Witnesses stated, Samaniego confronted several individuals who were attending PorchFest about his dislike of Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Samaniego was very vocal, and during the confrontation he assaulted three women and took a cellphone, later throwing it on the ground, rendering it unusable.”

“Prosecution for a hate crime requires that the suspect acted because of another person’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person/group having one or more of these characteristics. Hamas does not fit into any of these designations,” a DA news release said.

The DA concluded “that the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Samaniego committed a hate crime.”

“Derogatory statements” allegedly made by Samaniego against Palestine and Palestinians, the DA’s office said, are protected by the First Amendment.

Samaniego is accused of assaulting the three women and taking a cellphone and throwing it to the ground, destroying the device. He faces five years in state prison if convicted.

Perea: No Hate Crime Charges ‘Disheartening’

Several supporters of the three victims called for hate crime prosecution. That included Fresno City Council President Annalisa Perea.

After this story published, Perea released a statement.

“Today is indeed a disappointing day for Fresno. Learning that hate crime charges will be dropped in this case is disheartening. The Fresno Police Department’s decision to submit those charges underscores the gravity of the situation, and I stand with the victims in their pursuit of justice. This decision is a missed opportunity to send a strong message to our community that racism and hate will not be tolerated in our city,” Perea said in a news release.

Days after the initial incident, Perea said she was “deeply troubled” by the incident.

At the May 2 city council meeting, Perea said she sent Smittcamp a letter “requesting that she do pursue all applicable charges so that we can hold the suspect accountable and really make him an example that hate crimes will not be tolerated in our city.”

Other members of the public spoke at the May 2 meeting, calling for hate crime charges.

 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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