Prosecutors on Friday filed a hate crime charge against a 26-year-old man in an anti-Asian rant targeting a Japanese-American Olympic athlete in Southern California earlier this year.
The accused, Michael Orlando Vivona, had previously been accused of attacking an elderly Asian couple while they were walking in the park. Vivona remains in jail on $ 65,000 bail. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
The attacks in Orange County took place in April and are part of a wave of anti-Asian sentiment that has at times turned violent nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Vivona was indicted Friday on one count of misdemeanor violation of civil rights, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. While prosecutors did not identify the victim, Olympian Sakura Kokumai posted video of the April 1 meeting in Grijalva Park in Orange City.
Kokumai, a karate champion who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, was wearing headphones and talking on the phone in the park when Vivona started yelling at her aggressively, prosecutors said. He threatened her and spat in her direction.
“I was trying to figure out what was going on, but at the same time, I realized he was way taller than me,” Kokumai told the Los Angeles Times. “As far as I know I practice karate and am an athlete and fast you still don’t know what can happen.”
Less than three weeks later, Vivona reportedly ran towards an elderly Korean couple walking in Grijalva Park and punching the man in the face. He then hit the man’s wife on the head, causing her to fall, prosecutors said.
Passers-by intervened and police arrested Vivona, who later allegedly made disparaging statements about Asians to the police. He was charged in this case with two counts of elder abuse, two counts of assault and battery – hate crime causing injury and two hate crime enhancements.