National News

‘Disgusted’ Officials File Complaint Against Man in Anti-Immigrant Rant

Posted May 17, 2018 11:04 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2018 11:06 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., who was born in the Dominican Republic, said Thursday that he had filed a grievance with the court system against a man, believed to be a lawyer, who spewed a racist rant at Spanish-speaking workers in a Manhattan lunch spot.

The grievance named the man as Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer in midtown Manhattan, said Candace Person, a spokeswoman for Espaillat. Person said the name is based on social media and “credible reports.” Schlossberg, 42, did not return a phone call left at his office, she said.

Ruben Diaz Jr., the Democratic Bronx borough president, joined Espaillat’s complaint.

The court system’s attorney grievance committee investigates complaints to determine what action, if any, should be taken. Possible penalties include sanction and censure, a suspended law license and removal from the state bar, according to a spokesman for the New York State Unified Court System, Lucian Chalfen.

“We are sending this grievance to say that you cannot engage in xenophobia, bigotry, hate and get away with it. Such behavior should never be tolerated,” Espaillat said Thursday.

In the letter addressed to the chief attorney of the grievance committee, Jorge Dopico, Espaillat and Diaz called the video “vile” and said: “The audacity to profile and verbally assault innocent bystanders and customers in a public commercial location is a violation of our civil society. We watched Aaron’s video and we were disgusted.”

On Tuesday, Schlossberg’s verbal assault was captured in a video that was widely shared and condemned on social media. He was angry that staff members preparing food were speaking Spanish to customers, when, he said disdainfully, they “should be speaking English.” He threatened to call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to deport them, assuming that they were unauthorized immigrants merely because of the language they spoke.

“It’s America,” he said, scoffing. “I will be following up, and my guess is they’re not documented. So my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country.”

Schlossberg did not return messages from The New York Times on Wednesday or Thursday.

According to the court system, Schlossberg was admitted to the bar in 2003 and had no record of public discipline. He is the founder of his own firm.

The administrator on the 14th floor of his Madison Avenue office would not comment about the incident Wednesday and asked a reporter to leave because it was private property. The fast-casual restaurant, Fresh Kitchen, opened a month ago and is across the street from the lawyer’s office.

In addition to the state grievance, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights said that it was aware of the episode but that it could not comment further. The commission investigates claims of harassment and discrimination, including such episodes in public places. It can fine violators up to $250,000 for what it calls “willful, wanton, or malicious violations of the law and award compensatory damages to victims, including emotional-distress damages and other benefits.”

The commission said that it does not ask about immigration status when people call with complaints.