Today’s news:

Ozone Park man charged in bias assault at mall

An 18-year-old Ozone Park resident has been charged in connection with a hate crime in December at the Queens Center Mall, where he allegedly hit, punched and cut an Asian man with a box cutter, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The district attorney said Luis Figueroa, of 97-11 77th St., was charged in a four-count indictment with assault as a hate crime, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. He said the defendant faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

"The charges are serious and send a strong and clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Queens County and will be prosecuted vigorously and to the full extend of the law," Brown said.

Figueroa was arrested Dec. 31 and is being held pending arraignment in Queens Supreme Court, Brown said.

The district attorney said the defendant allegedly verbally and then physically attacked the 23-year-old Asian victim on Dec. 23 at about 7:30 p.m. in the parking garage at the mall at 90-15 Queens Blvd. Brown said the defendant directed anti-Asian remarks toward the victim, then started beating him and eventually took out a box cutter and slashed the victim in the left cheek.

The district attorney said the 23-year-old man needed medical attention and eventually 32 stitches because of the depth of the cut. He said the victim sustained a wound that will permanently scare him for life.

Brown defined a hate crime violation as an incident where a person intentionally commits a criminal act because of a belief or perception regarding race, color, gender, religion or sexual orientation, among other characteristics.

Queens Center Mall is located in the 110th Police Precinct.

Overall crimes committed in the precinct have fallen 3.6 percent compared with this time last year, police said. There has been a 33 percent drop from the same 2002 period, with the number of robberies falling from 46 to 31, police said. The number of felony assault and grand theft larceny crimes reported, however, have both increased by 16 percent, according to police.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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