TORRANCE, California - It took almost one year, a pair of hate-filled incidents caught on tape, and several community rallies, for Filipina racist abuse victim, Kayceelynn Salminao, to finally see her attacker in court and get justice.
Lena Hernandez, the so-called "Torrance Karen", entered a plea deal at a Torrance courthouse on Tuesday morning, months after she was caught on video verbally assaulting another Filipina, Sherry Bulseco, and an Asian-American family in two separate incidents at a local park last June.
Those two incidents shed light on an October 2019 incident where she physically attacked Salminao at a local mall, after Hernandez was verbally harassing another person.
Despite these viral incidents, Hernandez was only charged with a battery case in Salminao’s incident.
An emotional Salminao read her statement and spoke about Bulseco’s and the unnamed Asian family’s incidents as she asked for the maximum penalties.
"It was a bit nerve-racking just to finally see her again after almost a year but I was very happy to finally be able to say my victim statement, state my point of view and tell them how it really went down and for me to be able to speak up not only for myself but for all the other victims it was empowering. Because I’m not only representing myself and the victims but I’m representing the community of all Asian-Americans. I’m standing up for what should be done. What could be right," she said.
"I’m standing up for justice and what we got today was very disappointing."
Under the plea, Hernandez will get 45 days in prison along with 3 years of probation and 52 weeks of anger management. In lieu of community service, she asked for 2 additional days in custody.
"This sends a message and the message is that our safety as Asian Americans, our safety as women of color, our safety as minorities is valued at 45 days. What kind of message does this send to other perpetrators, other people, another violent racist, that you can just assault someone that you can push them to the ground and only walk away with a 45-day sentence?" said Sandy Roxas, Salminao's legal counsel.
"And 45 days does not mean it’s 45 days. Usually there is a 10 percent time that a defendant will actually face in custody.
"However due to COVID due to her (Hernandez) claims of being an elderly woman, she’ll likely and possibly just do a book and release, which is very disheartening. And we are very dissatisfied with what happened today and disappointed in the judicial system."
With anti-Asian incidents on the rise in the United States, and with only a few prosecutions pushing through victims, Roxas and the community believe more must be done to protect Asian-Americans and other minorities.
"There has to be more that is done to hold people accountable. They cannot continue to just roam around the street thinking it’s ok to call out racist slurs, to accuse someone of not being in the right country," Roxas said.
Hernandez did not speak with reporters outside the courthouse and sat quietly through the court proceedings. As community members rallied outside, she quickly walked to her car as they tried to confront her.
Hernandez is due back in court on November 10th when she will begin her sentence.