NEW BEDFORD — City police and the county prosecutor have decided to add civil rights charges against a man accused of assaulting Manny DeBrito, the head of New Bedford’s Board of Election Commissioners, in an encounter outside City Hall that DeBrito considered a “hate crime,” the police spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

Lt. Scott Carola said that the police, in conjunction with the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, decided that the additional charge was warranted and sent the charges to the District Court on Monday. As the full report on the incident that occurred on Nov. 19 has not yet been publicly released, he was not at liberty to elaborate on what specifically prompted the decision.

He said the suspect, Franklin Garcia, 24, whose last address was in Lakeville, would be charged under a state law covering “violations of civil rights.” The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine or a year in prison or both.


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DeBrito, who was urging the authorities to take this step, said he was pleased.

“Obviously I agree,” DeBrito said Tuesday at City Hall. “Let the courts take care of it, let justice play out.”

Garcia had already been charged with misdemeanor assault in the confrontation that occurred along William Street on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19. DeBrito said the suspect threatened to kill him, shouted racial slurs, then spit in his face.

According to DeBrito’s account, the man who often used the bathroom at City Hall got angry with a custodian when he was told the building was closed that day. The door on the William Street side was open to admit people who wanted to watch post-election ballot counting going on in a meeting room inside.

The custodian reported this to DeBrito, who was there with staff members counting about 100 ballots. He said he told the custodian to lock the door, then accompanied the custodian to the door. He said he stepped outside to tell the suspect that the building was closed. That’s when the man started cursing, DeBrito said.

DeBrito said he walked toward the man, at one point getting close enough for the man to spit in his face, hitting him in the eyes. The man then took off.

DeBrito said he called the police and an ambulance and was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital to have his eyes flushed out and to have blood drawn to make sure he had not been infected by the saliva.

DeBrito, whose parents came to the United States from Cape Verde, said he’s been the target of racial slurs before. He urged people to be assertively anti-racist in not tolerating this sort of behavior.

He said he was speaking out about this on behalf of those who may not have the forum to do so, and to those who “don’t take it seriously.”

Email staff reporter Arthur Hirsch at ahirsch@newbedfordlight.org.



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