Joseph Kess of Patchogue appears at his arraignment in Suffolk County...

Joseph Kess of Patchogue appears at his arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Thursday.  Credit: John Roca

A Patchogue man and an accomplice urinated on a same-sex couple’s vehicle before punching one of the women in the face and dragging the other onto a dock and nearly pushing her into the water, prosecutors said at an arraignment in Central Islip Thursday.

Joseph Kess, 40, of Patchogue, pleaded not guilty to third-degree assault as a hate crime, a felony, and other charges. District Court Judge F. Scott Carrigan set bail at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond.

Suffolk police and prosecutors said the two alleged female victims were watching the sunset at Mascot Dock on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue on May 14 at 7:45 p.m. when Kess and another man who has not yet been charged arrived in a vehicle and made anti-lesbian remarks in an incident captured on video by witnesses.

“You need a man,” prosecutors said Kess yelled at the women before rattling off a pair of more sexually explicit insults.

After dragging one alleged victim to the water, he told her “I’ll [expletive] drown you,” prosecutors said.

One of the women’s cellphones was thrown into the water, police said.

Attorney Scott Zerner, of Manhattan, who was assigned to represent Kess, told Carrigan that witness statements attribute most of the “reprehensible” remarks to an older man named “Tom,” who is bald.

“My client, I assure you, is not Tom,” Zerner said, pointing to Kess, whose hair flowed below his shoulders.

Zerner said he does not know the relationship between his client and “Tom” and could not speak to why the other man has not yet been charged.

“I don’t approve of these comments, I think these comments are reprehensible, but I would like everyone to keep in mind that there is a co-defendant who is not in court today,” Zerner said speaking outside the courtroom. “Many, if not all, of the comments are attributable to him.”

Police said the investigation into the other man is continuing.

Prosecutors said Kess has a long arrest history, including convictions for DWI and criminal contempt in 2019, criminal possession of a weapon in 2014 and resisting arrest in 2011.

“It is unacceptable that two people cannot enjoy a night out without being intimidated, ridiculed and physically assaulted because of the victims' sexual orientation,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said in a statement. “There is no room for hate in this county."

David Kilmnick, president of the Hauppauge-based LGBT Network, said he was encouraged to see Suffolk law-enforcement officials arrest and prosecute Kess, adding that the incident underscores the challenges the LGBTQ community faces every day.

"It is certainly a reminder that LGBTQ Long Islanders still face a great deal of hate and potential danger," Kilmnick said. "We need to do more to ensure all our communities are safer for the LGBTQ community."

Following an investigation by Hate Crimes Unit detectives, Kess was charged with third-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment, in addition to the assault charge.

“It is despicable that two young women couldn’t peacefully enjoy a beautiful spring sunset by the bay without allegedly being verbally and physically attacked simply because of their sexual orientation,” said District Attorney Ray Tierney in a statement.

Kess is due back in court June 20. He is also charged with third-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment. 

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