Suspect in Trolley Attack Pleads Not Guilty to Assault Charges

Prosecutors say Robert Compton punched an Afghani man who was riding the trolley with his family

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Robert Compton stood before a judge for only a few minutes, but it was long enough to enter a not guilty plea to two felony assault charges on Monday.

The 48-year-old is accused of punching a man from Afghanistan who recently moved to San Diego with his family. The attack happened on Feb. 26 on a Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) trolley in Grantville, according to San Diego police.

Police said Compton threatened to kill the entire family.

"Go back to where you came from. I hate you," is what witnesses told SDPD they heard Compton say just before striking 41-year-old father and jumping off the trolley.

At the time of the attack, the family was on a tour of the city led by a charity helping them with their transition, police said.

The father suffered several fractures to his face.

Compton was arrested for the crime more than a week and a half later in downtown San Diego with the help of evidence collected from San Diego's Smart Street Lights, according to SDPD.

Police said the evidence also helped link Compton to another attack on Feb. 28, though the second attack was not suspected to be hate-motivated.

Compton faced hate crime charges upon his arrest, according to SDPD, but none have been filed by the District Attorney's office. The DA's office anticipates adding more charges later this month but could not specify whether those would include hate crime charges, Deputy District Attorney Ian Fels said.

Due to the pending charges, Fels could not anticipate how many years behind bars Compton could be facing. Compton's bail was increased from $35,000 to $100,000.

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