The security video that shows the violent attack of an 84-year-old grandfather on a San Francisco street is horrifying to watch. It went viral, documenting one of the many attacks on Asian American seniors since the pandemic started.
Rong Xin Liao survived the jump-kick to his face and the impact of being thrown to the concrete sidewalk from his walker seat as he waited for the bus. But he suffered a skull fracture and needed surgery to relieve brain swelling.
It took more than a year for Rong Xin Liao and his family to get their day in court. They expected to see justice served. Yet they were shocked to learn they weren’t weren’t witnessing a trial at all.
It was a hearing for a mental health diversion program the suspect had been enrolled in months before. The Liao family said the district attorney’s office never told them that the suspect wouldn’t face prosecution.
They had no idea that the man who so violently attacked their grandfather was no longer in custody and all charges would be dropped if he completed mental health treatment.
This is complicated because San Francisco’s Behavioral Health Court is a good program. Mentally ill people need treatment and our jails should not be de facto mental institutions. I wrote an in depth article about the program.
The judge in my article says not every case is appropriate for the program. And the biggest drawback is someone does not get help until after they attack an innocent victim. We should be helping people get treatment before they become violent.
That’s why we need expanded conservatorship laws to give compelled treatment to people suffering from extreme mental illness. This is the missing element in Behavioral Health Court.
None of this was explained to the Liao family. They said they received no information from the district attorney’s office for more than a year after the attack.
Here/Say Media interviewed the victim’s grandson, Jack Liao, who claimed the district attorney’s office kept the family “in the dark” while trying to convince his non-English speaking grandfather to agree to no prosecution.
“When I talked to my grandfather he said he definitely wanted the attacker to be punished,” Jack Liao said. “They expected a senior who was traumatized and doesn’t understand English, to understand legal jargon. When old people don’t understand, they just smile and nod.”
According to the Here/Say Media report, the Liao family’s allegations “would constitute a violation of Marsy’s Law, a state law that grants certain rights to victims and their families, legal experts say.”
“My firm stance is that this was a violent hate crime, especially because of the rise in stigma against Asian Americans,” Jack Liao said. “We just want my grandpa to feel safe; we want everybody to feel safe.”
Originally published at https://www.engardio.com on April 23, 2021.