Man arrested at Porchfest confrontation not charged with hate crime

He faces criminal charges for robbery and battery but not for a hate crime since Hamas is considered to be a terrorist organization.

Two weeks ago a Fresno man was in an altercation with Palestinian supporters during the Tower District’s Porchfest event and was accused of committing a hate crime. 

Thursday, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced that he will face criminal charges for the incident, none of which, however, are for a hate crime. 


The backstory: On April 27 Francisco Samaniego, 49, was arrested after a physical confrontation with a group of women who had a booth at Porchfest. 

  • Police said Samaniego had appeared to be intoxicated when he began arguing with the women over their support of Palestine, which turned into a physical altercation. 
  • He was arrested on one felony for robbery and two misdemeanors for battery and a violation of civil rights or hate crime. 

The big picture: The district attorney’s office filed one felony count of second-degree robbery and three misdemeanor counts of battery. 

  • Samaniego faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted of the charges. 
  • According to the district attorney’s office, Samaniego took a cellphone from the women and threw it on the ground, which broke it. 
  • Because Samaniego was expressing his dislike of Hamas, the district attorney’s office has declined to file a hate crime charge. 

Go deeper: Prosecuting a hate crime charge requires a suspect to act on someone else’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person or group that has one or more of those characteristics. 

  • “Hamas does not fit into any of these designations,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. “After carefully reviewing the investigative reports and witness statements, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office has reached the legal conclusion that the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Samaniego committed a hate crime.” 
  • The office said that Samaniego made derogatory statements referring to Palestine and Palestinian people – which it called “despicable” – but his comments are protected under the First Amendment. 
  • “The evidence presented did not reach the level required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of Samaniego interfered with the civil rights of the victims,” the office said. “The statement regarding Hamas do not meet the requirements of a hate crime, as terrorist organizations are not a protected class under the statute.” 
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