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Man accused of using homophobic slurs in altercation, hanging anti-Semitic banner over San Diego overpass charged with hate crime

Robert Wilson is accused of using homophobic slurs in an altercation with a neighbor and allegedly hung "a large anti-Semitic poster" on I-805 in another incident.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A man who allegedly attacked his neighbor while using homophobic slurs, then hung an anti-Semitic banner over a San Diego freeway overpass, pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony count of battery, plus a hate crime allegation.

Robert Frank Wilson, 40, is accused of directing slurs at his neighbor in a Nov. 10 altercation in the victim's driveway. According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, Wilson blocked the neighbor's driveway, yelled homophobic slurs, then reached into the victim's vehicle and struck him in the face.

In an apparently unrelated incident, the DA's Office alleges that Wilson and others hung "a large anti-Semitic poster on the fence of an Interstate 805 overpass" on Dec. 18, in violation of the San Diego City Municipal Code.

Wilson, who remains out of custody, entered his pleas in-person in a Chula Vista courtroom. He faces up to three years and six months in prison if convicted.

"This case and these events demonstrate that those who are motivated by prejudice often spread their hate around to various groups, attacking our neighbors on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said.

"Hate against one group is a threat to everyone and we won't tolerate these crimes in our community. Anyone considering committing a hate crime should think again as they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable under the law."

A DA's Office statement indicates that hate crime prosecutions have risen in San Diego County in recent years, with 21 cases filed last year and 30 such cases in 2021.

In response to hate crimes aimed at Asians amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an online form and hotline was established last year by the DA's Office that allows members of the public to report suspected hate crimes.

Though hate speech in and of itself may not always rise to the level of criminal activity, the DA's Office statement indicated hate speech "is relevant as it could escalate to criminal behavior. Hate crimes are often preceded by hate speech."

The online reporting form can be found here, while the Hate Crimes Hotline number is 619-515-8805.

Below is the DA's full statement on the incident: 

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced criminal charges today against a man who attacked his neighbor on November 10 while yelling anti-gay slurs. Robert Frank Wilson, 40, is charged with one count of felony battery and a hate crime allegation. He was arraigned today in San Diego Superior Court in the South Bay and pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Wilson blocked his neighbor’s driveway, got out of his vehicle and started yelling homophobic slurs at the victim. At one point, Wilson reached into the window of the victim’s vehicle and struck him in the face.

About five weeks after the incident, on December 18, Wilson was cited by the San Diego Police Department for working with a group of people to hang a large anti-Semitic poster on the fence of an Interstate 805 overpass in violation of the San Diego City Municipal Code. The DA is including the code violation as part of the charges it filed against Wilson. If convicted, he faces up to three years, six months in prison.

“This case and these events demonstrate that those who are motivated by prejudice often spread their hate around to various groups, attacking our neighbors on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Hate against one group is a threat to everyone and we won’t tolerate these crimes in our community. Anyone considering committing a hate crime should think again as they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable under the law.”

Prosecuting hate crimes is a priority for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. The DA has nearly tripled the number of hate crime cases it has prosecuted in recent years, filing 21 cases in 2020 and 30 such cases in 2021.

Last year, in response to reports of hate-related incidents aimed at the Asian community across the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the District Attorney’s Office announced a new online form and hotline where the public can report suspected hate incidents and hate crimes they’ve been a victim or witness to in San Diego County. The online reporting form can be found on the District Attorney’s website here. The Hate Crimes Hotline number is 619-515-8805.

Individuals submitting information about a suspected hate crime will be contacted with information about the DA’s review of the report and any action that may be taken. The public is reminded that hate speech in and of itself often does not rise to the level of a hate crime but is relevant as it could escalate to criminal behavior Hate crimes are often preceded by hate speech. By law, a hate crime is a criminal act committed against another person that is motivated by prejudice against that person’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Wilson will next be in court on January 5 for a readiness hearing. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 19.

WATCH RELATED: FBI launches hate crime reporting campaign - Sept. 2021

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