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Suspect exonerated in Qns. imam attack

Suspect exonerated in Qns. imam attack
A grand jury voted to indict Albert Melendez (above) on a misdemeanor charge for allegedly attacking a Woodside imam named Rod Peterson. The jury also voted not to indict Eddie Crespo (not pictured), another man who had initially been charged in the attack. AP Photo/Marc A. Hermann, Pool
By Rebecca Henely

A grand jury voted earlier this month not to indict one of two men who were charged with assaulting and robbing a Woodside imam in a bias hate crime, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said this week.

Eddie Crespo, a 28-year-old Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority Worker from Staten Island, was initially charged in an incident which occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 9 on an A train going northbound at the Canal Street station in Manhattan. The DA said the incident began when Albert Melendez, a 30-year-old Manhattan resident, allegedly made anti-Muslim remarks to Rod Peterson, a 49-year-old Woodside resident whom the New York Post reported was an imam.

Melendez allegedly attacked Peterson when he attempted to leave the subway train, at which time Peterson forced him to the ground, the DA said.

Crespo had allegedly pulled Peterson off Melendez, allowing Melendez to stand up, take off Peterson’s kufi – an African head covering — and throw it on to the subway tracks, the DA said.

During the incident, Melendez allegedly told Peterson, “What are you, a camel jockey? I don’t like Muslims,” and “You know, I really don’t like Muslims,” during the attack, the DA said.

Both Melendez and Crespo were initially charged with robbery as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime, the DA said, and had been held on cash bail and bond.

A grand jury voted not to indict Crespo on Dec. 13, the DA said. At the same time, the jury indicted Melendez on a misdemeanor charge which has not been made public, the DA said.

Crespo has since been released and has no further court dates, according to the Department of Corrections web site. Melendez has also been released, the department said.

Melendez’s next court date will be his Manhattan Supreme Court arraignment on Jan. 11, at which time his misdemeanor indictment will be unsealed, the DA said.

Arnold Keith, lawyer for Eddie Crespo, did not respond to calls for comment.

The attack had been condemned by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Council members Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) and Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan). The Council for American-Islamic Relations also criticized the attack.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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