SALT LAKE CITY -- A man has been charged with assault and threatening with a dangerous weapon, but not a hate crime, after a video of an apparent homophobic attack in Salt Lake City was shared widely on social media.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office announced Friday they have filed charges against Carlo Alazo for his alleged attack on Salvador Trejo and others in a group Trejo was with that night.
The incident occurred February 16 in downtown Salt Lake City near 341 South Main Street.
A charging document states Trejo was with a group of friends when he heard Alazo, who was on the phone nearby, make a comment about "standing by a gay guy".
When Trejo reacted to that remark, Alazo became more belligerent and started calling Trejo and the other men in the group "fa----", along with making other derogatory comments directed at the women in the group.
Alazo then asked if Trejo was gay and then hit the man when he said that he was, the document states. The blow, captured on camera, ended up striking Trejo's cell phone rather than his person.
Alazo then shoved one of the women and pulled out a knife, which he dropped, the document states.
"He was holding the knife, and then he dropped it because he was so intoxicated," Trejo told Fox 13. "He couldn't even hold it."
Alazo is charged with one count of threatening or using a dangerous weapon in a fight or quarrel as a class A misdemeanor, and two counts of assault as class B misdemeanors.
Alazo faces up to one year in jail for the weapons charge and 6 months each for the assault counts.
"The District Attorney’s Office expresses it thanks to Salt Lake City Police Department for their diligent and dedicated professionalism in the investigation of the case, and thanks the members of the community for their assistance in getting information to the police department and helping bring these charges forward," the press release states.
DA Sim Gill said his office did not charge Alazo with a hate crime because of the way Utah's hate crime statute is written rather than because of the details of the case itself.
"We’ve never had a successful prosecution for the last 20 years on hate crime and the reason is we don’t have a statute we can rely upon," Gill said.
The way the hate crime statute is written now, the crime needs to be a misdemeanor, which it is in this case. But there’s another element that prosecutors have to prove, something which Gill says is almost impossible.
"We have to demonstrate that it wasn’t the underlying characteristic of the person, but the intent of the person while engaging in that conduct was to deny you a constitutionally protected right: That’s the hoops that they have put in there," Gill said.
Trejo previously told Fox 13 he shared his story to begin conversations about hate crimes and equal rights.
"We want everybody to have a voice and be able to be who they are, and not experience physical harm or mental harm because of that," he said.
Federal prosecutors recently stepped in to file hate crime charges of their own in another local case.
In that case, a man allegedly yelled that he wanted to kill a Mexican before assaulting three Latino men he believed to be Mexican.
"The indictment from the federal system was really an important commentary on what we cannot do as state prosecutors and what they can do," said Gill.
The Utah State Legislature is considering changes to the hate crime statute, which passed through a Senate committee earlier this week on a unanimous vote.
"It will actually give us a workable statute. It’s not perfect as was discussed but it actually will be a tool that we can go to which is an option that is not available to us at this time," said Gill.