Metro Weekly

Two Men Plead Guilty to Hate Crime Against Trans Murder Victim

The defendants were part of a trio that videotaped themselves harassing trans woman Alexa Negrón Luciano, who was later found shot to death.

Alexa Negrón Luciano – Photo: FBI

Two Puerto Rican men pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice for assaulting a transgender woman with a paintball gun just hours before she was found murdered in a vacant lot by the side of the road, in the town of Toa Baja.

According to court documents, Jordany Rafael Laboy-Garcia and Christian Yamaurie Rivera-Otero were out driving in Toa Baja with their former co-defendant, Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz, around 12:29 a.m. on February 24, 2020. The men saw the victim — identified as A.N.L. — standing under a tent near the side of the road. 

The men reportedly recognized A.N.L., a 29-year-old transgender woman, from social media posts, in which she had been accused of “peeping” in a women’s restroom at a McDonald’s restaurant on February 23.

Upon recognizing her, Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record a video of himself yelling “la loca, la loca,” Spanish for “crazy woman.” He also yelled disparaging and threatening comments to A.N.L. from inside the car.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the three men retrieved a paintball gun and returned to the location to shoot at A.N.L.

Lobos-Ruiz used his iPhone to record Laboy-Garcia shooting at A.N.H. multiple times. In the video, one voice can be heard saying, “Hey, can you give me some of that ass.” Other voices are then heard saying, “We are going to shoot you up,” “Let’s spin the tires on this motherfucker,” and “You bet I am going to go and shoot him.”

Lobos-Ruiz later shared the video recording of the assault with others and on social media. But several hours later, Rivera-Otero and Lobos-Ruiz exchanged text messages telling each other to delete evidence of their harassment of A.N.L. and the subsequent assault of her. Lobos-Ruiz deleted the two videos.

A.N.L., whom transgender advocates have identified as Alexa Negrón Luciano (also known as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz), had previously been accused of using a handheld mirror to peer into a stall in the McDonald’s women’s restroom, prompting one onlooker to file a false report with police alleging she was spying on other restroom occupants.

Police later came to the restaurant and questioned the man, who withdrew his complaint. They also spoke to Luciano, but did not arrest her or charge her with any crime.

As CBS News reported at the time, police found no evidence of the mirror, or that Luciano had engaged in any wrongdoing. However, video of police confronting Luciano went viral, and rumors that a man had entered a women’s restroom spread widely across the island. 

Luciano, who was homeless and had been abandoned by her family, had camped out by the side of the road when the trio of men confronted her. It remains unclear what happened to Luciano after the assault with the paintball gun, but her body was later found near the side of the road, having been shot multiple times. Twelve 9-millimeter bullet casings were found near her body.

No one has been arrested for Luciano’s murder, despite pleas from LGBTQ advocates urging police to be more proactive in solving incidents of deadly violence against LGBTQ individuals, especially transgender women.

The three men were arrested in August 2021 and charged with a hate crime for attacking Luciano. Lobos-Ruiz pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime and was sentenced to 33 months in prison last November.

Prosecutors subsequently reached a plea agreement, in which Laboy-Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a hate crime for harassing Luciano and returning to her campsite with the intent of shooting her with the paintball gun because of her gender identity.

They also reached a deal in which Rivera-Otero pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for ordering Lobos-Ruiz to delete the video evidence of their encounters with Luciano.

Both Laboy-Garcia and Rivera-Otero are scheduled to appear in court on November 10 for sentencing.

Prior to the plea deal, the defendants could have faced up to 10 years in prison for the hate crime charge, up to five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and up to 20 years for the obstruction of justice charge, with a maximum $250,000 fine for each charge.

A federal judge will determine the final sentence after consulting the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and taking other factors into account.

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