BY PAUL SCHINDLER | In his first public statement since his beating several weeks ago, Randy Gener said that though he cannot yet remember the incident, allegations that he kicked a woman in the chest prior to being punched to the ground are at odds with anything he has ever before done.
Those allegations appeared in the criminal complaint presented when the suspect arrested for assaulting Gener, 24-year-old Leighton Jennings of Jamaica, Queens, was arraigned on January 29.
Jennings was charged with two misdemeanor third-degree assault charges, even though on the same day a police department spokesman, in an email message, told Gay City News that Jennings was facing felony assault charges.
The attack on Gener, on Seventh Avenue near 54th Street — less than a block from his apartment — in the early morning hours of January 17, has left the 46-year-old gay arts journalist in the hospital, recovering from head trauma that required surgery to relief pressure on his brain. Gener’s husband, Stephen Nisbet, and sister, Jessica Blair-Driessler, said that Gener was likely to face a long convalescence. Gener is scheduled for his second brain surgery on February 5.
The January 29 criminal complaint includes a witness’ allegation that Gener was physically aggressive in a confrontation that led up to the assault. It cites a woman who says she bumped into Gener and “as she walked forward the guy [Gener] bumped her back… the informant threw her clutch purse at the guy’s head and missed.” At that point, according to the woman, Gener kicked her in the chest and Jennings got out of his car. The woman told police, “the guy kicked the defendant [Jennings] in the stomach… the defendant punched the guy one time in the face and… the guy fell back to the concrete.”
According to published press reports based on police sources, the woman was a companion of Jennings.
The complaint mentions a second witness who said only that he saw “a man punch another man in the face with a fist which caused the male who was hit to fall to the ground and strike his head on the sidewalk.” That witness told police that Gener remained on the ground until they arrived.
According to DNAinfo.com, a taxi driver was responsible for giving police the license plate number of a suspect that was released publicly one day before Jennings’ arrest. DNA also cited police sources who said Jennings was accompanied by two women and another man.
The complaint said that, according to Officer Fredrick Crump of the Midtown North Precinct, Gener was “conscious but disoriented” at the time police arrived on the scene. It makes no reference to any statements Gener may have made to police about the incident.
Nisbet and Blair-Driessler were unaware that Jennings had been charged with misdemeanor rather than felony assault or of the contents of the criminal complaint when contacted on January 31, two days after Jennings’ arraignment.
“We are baffled by the reduction of charges against Randy’s assailant,” Nisbet said.
On February 3, in an email message, Nisbet said that his husband disputed the picture of himself painted by the criminal complaint.
“Randy read your Article today,” Nesbit said of a January 31 story posted at gaycitynews.com. “The first info he has read. While he still cannot remember the incident he does deny that he has EVER been aggressive or violent against women. Same story both I and his sister gave police.
The complaint also casts a different light on the attack on Gener than had been suggested by police and the media in the days immediately after it happened. Because the assault did not involve robbery and resulted in injuries that have kept Gener in the hospital for more than two weeks, there was speculation that it may have been a hate crime motivated by his sexual orientation or the fact that he is Filipino-American. In fact, the complaint indicates that the case was handled by the department’s Bias Incident Investigations Unit, and Blair-Driessler told Gay City News that a member of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau LGBT liaison team attended a January 26 vigil for Gener and spoke to her there.
Since Jennings’ arrest on January 28, however, neither the police nor the DA has talked about the crime as a potential hate crime.
Jennings, who was released without bail on his own recognizance, is next scheduled to appear in court on March 11.
Gener’s assault led to two large community gatherings aimed at showing him support. About 70 people turned out at the January 26 vigil, held at the crime scene. The following evening, the Filipino-American Press Club and other groups held a prayer vigil and press conference at the Consulate General of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue in Midtown. The consul-general of the Philippines in New York, Ambassador Mario de Leon, praised Gener’s contributions to the city’s Filipino-American community and read a statement from José L. Cuisia Jr., the Filipino ambassador to the United States.
Gener’s family will hold a fundraiser on February 23 at 11 a.m. at the Filipino restaurant the Purple Yam (purpleyamnyc.com) on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, with more details to follow. The family also set up a charity link to raise funds for his care at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-randy-gener/130589.
Anyone with additional information about the crime can report it anonymously to the police department at 1-800-577-TIPS. — Additional reporting by Michael Luongo