A prosecutor added felony charges, including attempted sexual assault, Monday against a man accused of attacking Connecticut’s first Muslim state representative after a prayer service, but did not file hate crime allegations demanded by the lawmaker’s supporters.
The case of Andrey Desmond, 30, went before a judge in Hartford Superior Court, where supporters of state Rep. Maryam Khan, including local imams, also gathered.
“It continues to be a mystery to me why the state isn’t bringing bias crimes in this type of incident,” said Farhan Memon, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Having this charged as a bias crime sends a message out to the rest of the population that this is going to be something that’s dealt with seriously.”
Hartford State’s Attorney Sharmese Walcott did not return messages seeking comment about the case and the demand to file hate crime allegations.
During the hearing, Walcott said the additional charges were the result of a review of all evidence gathered by Hartford police, including video footage and “a clear statement by the defendant … that he intended to force sexual contact,” according to audio of the hearing provided by the court system.
“The statement of sexual intent that Andrey Desmond made was in the presence of three children, all under the age of 16,” Wolcott said, adding the children suffered mental trauma.
Desmond was initially charged with misdemeanors, including third-degree assault and unlawful restraint, after the June 28 attack on Khan outside a Hartford arena where the Muslim prayer service was held. Walcott on Monday added felony charges of attempted third-degree sexual assault, second-degree assault, strangulation and risk of injury to children.
Desmond remains detained on $250,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court Aug. 22. His public defender, Michael Wagner, did not return messages. Wagner did not respond to the allegations during the court hearing, according to the audio. He requested copies of supplemental police reports.
Desmond, who has not entered pleas, was brought to the courthouse lockup, but did not appear in the courtroom for the hearing.
Khan, a Democrat who lives in the Hartford suburb of Windsor, has said she and her family were taking photos outside the arena when a man approached and said he “intended to have sexual relations” with one of them, including Khan’s 15-year-old daughter. Her family was marking Eid al-Adha, the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca.
Desmond then followed them inside and Khan said he started to pursue her in particular, grabbing at her face and shirt and demanding a kiss. He followed her back outside and tried to grab her face again, she said, but became angry when she “dodged him” and slapped her across the face. She said he later held her in a “chokehold” and held up his hand and mimicked having a gun before slamming her into the ground.
“I knew in that moment my body went numb, and I thought I was going to die,” she said at a news conference earlier this month.
Khan said she was diagnosed with a concussion and injured her right arm and shoulder.
The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify people who report attempted sexual assaults unless they publicly identify themselves, as Khan has done.
Desmond was chased down and held by two bystanders until police arrived and arrested him.
Khan did not return an email message seeking comment. Memon said she attended Monday’s court hearing.
She has accused Hartford police of downplaying the assault and called for a federal investigation of the department’s handling of violent crimes, especially against women.
A police spokesman did not return a message Monday.
Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody has expressed his sympathy for Khan and said the department will review its response to the attack.