An ugly incident outside of the main gate of the Mid State Fair in Paso Robles has brought assault and battery charges with a hate crime enhancement to the alleged perpetrator.
Paso Robles Police responded to a call at 10:11 p.m. on July 20 outside the main gate of the California Mid State Fair, where Cristian Victor Sioldea, 20, of Paso Robles allegedly approached a couple from behind and assaulted them. According to San Luis Obispo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran, Sioldea, a Caucasian, approached Ernest Gene Martin Jr., 50, an African American, from behind and punched him in the head. During the altercation, both Martin and his wife, Sonja Joanne Martin, 44, a Caucasian, were knocked to the ground. Sioldea then reportedly threw a second punch, but missed. Martin subdued Sioldea, until fair security arrived and called the Paso Robles Police Department.
At one point during the incident Sioldea allegedly said “Hey nigger, let’s fight,” and then proceeded to continue calling Martin the racial slur.
What prompted the alleged attack is unclear; the victims said they didn’t know the suspect, Sioldea’s blood alcohol content was 0.0, and no gang involvement is suspected at this time. Ernest Martin sought medical attention and was determined to have a concussion, and Sonja Martin suffered minor scrapes and cuts.
Sioldea has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, and a felony charge with the hate crime enhancement.
Gran said that Sioldea told responding officers he was sorry that it happened. Sioldea pleaded not guilty on July 24, and will return to court in late August.
Sioldea’s lawyer, San Luis Obispo-based defense attorney Gerald Carrasco, told New Times that the incident wasn’t motivated by Martin’s race, and that there was more to it than initially reported by police.
“This was an isolated incident, and it had nothing to do based on the person’s race,” Carrasco said. “[Sioldea] actually has a great many friends that are African American, and they are very shocked as well as his parents are that this took place.”
Carrasco said that the n-word was used in a colloquial context, rather than meant as a racial slur.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay