A New York City woman was indicted by a state grand jury for murder as a hate crime for pushing a 46-year-old man in front of a subway train last month, prosecutors said.
The woman, Erika Menendez, 31, was found mentally fit to stand trial and was indicted on one count of second-degree murder as a hate crime and two counts of second-degree murder, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said today in a hearing before acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt, according to his office.
Menendez, of Rego Park, Queens, was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at a court appearance last month, Brown’s office said in a statement. She faces a life sentence if convicted.
“The defendant is charged with having been motivated by hate when she allegedly shoved an innocent man into the path of an oncoming train,” Brown said. “The violence of the attack has no place in a civilized society -- and especially in Queens County, which is proudly known as one of the most diverse counties in the country.”
Menendez is accused of pushing Sunando Sen, onto the tracks of the Sunnyside subway station into the path of a No. 7 train, according to the statement. Sen, a native of India who lived in Queens and had a printing business in the city, was struck by the train and died of multiple blunt force trauma.
Menendez admitted pushing Sen when she was arrested and told the police, “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” according to Brown’s statement.
Sen’s was the second subway pushing fatality in December. Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with two counts of second-degree murder earlier in the Dec. 3 death of Ki-Suck Han, 58, on the tracks at the Times Square station, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The victim was struck by a train and died later that day.
Steve Raiser, an attorney hired by Menendez’s family, declined to comment on today’s proceedings, saying he isn’t sure if he or a lawyer appointed by the court will represent her.
“The issue right now is whether she’s fit to proceed with her own defense,” Raiser said in a telephone interview.
Joseph F. DeFelice, a court-appointed attorney, said Menendez indicated that she wants him to represent her.
Menendez was in a “deteriorated mental state” when the incident happened, and statements she made after being arrested may not be reliable, he said.
“I don’t see it as a hate crime,” DeFelice said. “She’s mentally ill.”
Menendez, who is being held without bail, will be arraigned on Jan. 29.