Saturday, November 27 2021

Michael Vivona is accused of yelling, threatening and spitting at US Olympic athlete Sakura Kokumai earlier this year. (Orange Police Department; Getty Images)

(KTLA– Man suspected of shouting threats and spat at US Olympic karate athlete in southern California park earlier this year has been charged with a hate crime, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said on Friday.

Michael Orlando Vivona, 26, already faces multiple hate crime charges in a separate case where he allegedly punched an older Asian couple while they were out for a walk, prosecutors said in a report. Press release.

The two incidents took place at Grijalva Park in Orange in April.

Vivona was charged with violating civil rights on Friday in connection with the April 1 incident involving a Japanese-American Olympian, according to the press release.

The accused is suspected of having “shouted aggressively at the woman, threatening her and spat in her direction,” the statement said.

The athlete, Sakura Kokumai, 28, told KTLA she was at the park – where she trained frequently for the 2021 Summer Games – when a stranger started yelling random things at her .

“Basically he was yelling things like, ‘Don’t talk behind my back. Why are you looking at my car? ‘ She told KTLA. “So things like that that made me notice that it could be something a little, I don’t know, off. So I let it go.

Saying she was scared, Kokumai pulled out her phone and started recording.

She said she didn’t know why she was being targeted until the man started hurling racist slurs at her as he got into his car to leave.

“I was aware of the anti-Asian hatred that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news, ”Kokumai told KTLA in April. “But I didn’t think that would happen to me in a park where I usually go to train. “

According to DA Spitzer, Orange County has seen an 1,800% increase in incidents of anti-Asian hate in the past year due to the nationwide response amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a separate incident on April 18, Vivona allegedly physically assaulted a Korean couple aged 78 and 79, hitting the husband in the face and the wife in the head as they strolled through the park at night, according to the prosecutor. Office. The force of the blows made them each fall.

Vivona was arrested after the intervention of passers-by. He “then made statements to the police denigrating Asians,” prosecutors said.

He was charged with two counts of elder abuse and bodily harm (specifically assault and battery – hate crime causing injury), as well as two hate crime enhancements in this case.

Vivona now faces a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison and one year in prison if convicted on all counts.

He is being held on $ 65,000 bail at Theo Lacy Center.

Spitzer urges anyone who thinks they have observed or been the victim of a hate crime to report it to local law enforcement.

“I will not tolerate and I will punish all hate criminals,” he said in the statement. “Orange County law enforcement and prosecutors are properly trained and will investigate and prosecute haters to the fullest extent of the law. ”


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