A Big Law-backed pro bono alliance formed to assist victims of anti-Asian hate crimes is aiding two Korean American women who were attacked in Baltimore, one of dozens of cases the group says it has been referred since officially launching last month.
Robert Hur, a former U.S. Attorney in Maryland and partner at Gibson Dunn, is representing the sisters, who were beaten by a man wielding a cinder block as they tried to close their liquor store last weekend. Gibson Dunn is one of the law firms organizing the Alliance for Asian American Justice.
The attack was caught on security video. It is part of what the group says is a growing trend of verbal and physical assaults targeting Asians, which have increased in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Hur, who also heads Maryland’s new Hate Crimes Task Force, said Thursday that he is working with law enforcement to pin down all the facts in the assault.
“A friend of mine called my attention to the video, which was on a GoFundMe site,” he told Bloomberg Law. “I saw that a large, heavy object was swung with real force into someone’s head, and I knew I had to reach out to them because this is exactly the kind of case the Alliance was meant to handle.”
The Alliance, which is backed by some 40 law firms and a group of large company law departments, help victims pursue legal action. The group has partnered with community organizations and bar associations to help with initial case intake.
Dozens of cases have poured in during the weeks since the Alliance started, said Debra Wong Yang, a Gibson Dunn partner in Los Angeles, who evaluates potential cases and sends them to volunteer lawyers.
“We have had a huge range of cases, ranging from deaths, to cases where people have been spit on or blocked in their cars, to hearing horrible things said about Asians,” Yang said in an interview.
The Alliance is giving legal representation to some of the March 16 Atlanta spa shooting victims, six of whom were Asian women. It is also assisting the family of an 84-year-old Thai American man in San Francisco who died after an attack in January, Yang said.
Tai Park, a White & Case partner who is also evaluating cases, said the group is aiding Indian American victims of a mass shooting in Indianapolis, a Filipino woman who was attacked in Manhattan, and a Chinese man collecting bottles and cans who was stomped and kicked in the head in New York, among others.
“Debra Wong Yang and I are also investigating a number of incidents that require more details before referring them out to participating firms,” he told Bloomberg Law.
Data from nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate found that there were 6,603 incidents reported between March 19, 2020 and March 30, 2021 alone. Hate incidents reported by Asian women made up nearly 65% of all reports.
The Baltimore incident occurred May 9 as one of the owners was closing down the liquor store just before midnight. According to security video footage, a woman tried to prevent a man from forcing his way into the store, and he knocked her to the ground then beat her. Her sister, who also works at the store, was assaulted when she tried to help.
Police later arrested suspect Daryl Doles, who has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was sending state police to work with the city to investigate.
“When I saw the video, I knew I had to help even though I don’t know much Korean,” said Hur. “A lot of times people don’t know legal help is available, but we want to pursue this. This wasn’t a fair fight.”
“If someone is found guilty for something like this, then they will be sentenced,” he said. “One of the purposes of sentencing is deterrence so people will know that you can’t spit on a person or say because this person looks different it’s okay to hit them or punch them or anything else.”