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Man Pleads Not Guilty in Hate Crime Attack on Syrian Teen

Adrian Vergara, 26, pleaded not guilty to assault with an added hate crime allegation.

A man arrested for a hate crime attack of a teenage Syrian refugee aboard a trolley pleaded not guilty, Thursday.

Adrian Vergara, 26, kept his head down throughout the entire arraignment when he pleaded not guilty to assault with an added hate crime allegation.

Vergara was arrested Tuesday for an unrelated misdemeanor narcotics charge and investigators recognized him as a suspect in the Oct. 15 attack on the teenager, San Diego police said.

On Oct. 15 a teenager said he was riding the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) trolley on his way home from school at about 3 p.m. He was speaking Arabic on the phone when the attack happened, according to the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), a non-profit that supports refugees.

“He was speaking to a friend in Arabic when the defendant ripped out his ear phone and asked him "what trash are you speaking?” said prosecutors.

Prosecutors continued to say Vergara then hit the teen five to six times in the face.

NBC 7
Picture of the teen's face after the attack

San Diego Police tell NBC 7 a surveillance video from cameras onboard the trolley confirms the teens allegations.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of San Diego said they are disappointed no one stood up for the teen during the attack.

“One of the most upsetting things for me in hearing about this story is that no one was an ally for this young man, no one stood up for him. That’s what we need to do, we need to stand up and help each other. That’s the most important thing we can do,”said Tammy Gillies, San Diego Regional Director of the ADL.

Vergara was previously arrested for robbery and vehicle theft and was already on a felony probation when he was arrested.

Vergara is being held on a $30,000 bail and is expected back in court on Nov. 4.

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