A Manhattan state court judge set bail at $25,000 Friday following the appearance of a homeless man accused of multiple hate crime attacks on Asian women last weekend.
Steven Zajonc, 28, who prosecutors said had ties to Florida, Hawaii and Kansas, appeared in court before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Soma Syed to face four counts of assault in the third degree as a hate crime and other charges.
Police believe Zajonc had committed a total of seven assaults with his fist and elbow on Asian women ranging in age from 19 to 57 during separate incidents in Manhattan over a two-hour period Feb. 27. During the court appearance, prosecutors said that while Zajonc is only accused in four assaults, the investigation was continuing into other unprovoked hate crime attacks that were part of the crime pattern.
According to the NYPD, the assaults weren’t preceded by any conversations and appeared to be unprovoked. The injuries suffered by the women were mostly minor but in one case a victim suffered a bloody and cut lip after receiving an elbow in the mouth, investigators said.
Prosecutors with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Zajonc identified himself in various still photos taken from video surveillance recordings of the attacks. A spokeswoman for Bragg said prosecutors had asked that bail be set at $50,000 because of the strength of their case against Zajonc.
Syed instead set bail at $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond. It was unclear late Friday if Zajonc was able to post bail. Defense attorney Michael Feinman couldn’t be reached for comment.
Prosecutors said they were concerned about Zajonc being a flight risk because he admitted having ties to the three other states and faced significant prison time if convicted of the charges.
Zajonc was arrested Monday after a security guard at the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan recognized him from video recordings released by the NYPD, according to police. At the time of his arrest, Zajonc was living in a homeless shelter.
The attacks on the women stoked additional fear and concern in the city’s Asian community, which has been buffeted in recent months by four homicides. In one case last month, Christina Yuna Lee, 35, was stabbed to death by a 25-year-old man who had followed her to her apartment on Chrystie Street in Chinatown, authorities said.
The latest NYPD crime statistics revealed that bias incidents against Asians had increased so far this year by at least 125% over the same period in 2021.
That percentage is likely now to go much higher since the tabulation didn’t include the attacks in which Zajonc is suspected of taking part in, said one senior police official.