Condemning Lax Sentencing in East Boston Hate Crime

Immigrant Rights, Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Lax Sentencing in East Boston Hate Crime Endangers Spanish-Speaking Community

The East Boston District Court has failed to meaningfully sentence Stephanie Armstrong in connection with the heinous attack on a Latinx mother and minor in East Boston. This follows on the heels of the lax sentencing of another white assailant, Jenny Leigh Ennamorati, who was also involved with the crime. The back-to-back lax sentencing strikes deep fear in communities of color, especially victims of hate crimes who are far too often failed by the legal system.  

This case arises from the 2020 hate crime and attack perpetrated against a Latina mother and her then 15-year-old daughter for speaking Spanish in public in East Boston. The assailants violently beat the victims while spewing hate: “This is America,” “speak English,” and “go back to your f**king country!” 

Despite garnering national attention – and against the backdrop of escalating racial violence across the country – justice continues to escape victims of color. 

Lawyers for Civil Rights (“LCR”) zealously advocated for the investigation into the East Boston incident as a hate crime. Without that advocacy, the victims and their experience would have gone uncounted and unaddressed. Disappointingly, after nearly two years of advocacy, the lax sentencing of both white assailants demonstrates that the legal system continues to fail victims of racially-motivated crimes. 

“We continue to see a significant rise in hate crimes locally and nationally, particularly those related to race. Violence against Latinx, Black and Asian American communities continues to escalate, as seen in the horrific events in Buffalo, New York. We can no longer afford to meet hatred and violence with leniency,” said Myraida Melendez, Staff Attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights.  

Today, the court only found the defendant guilty of assault and battery — and only sentenced the assailant to a probation term of two years. Particularly disappointing was the clear reluctance to impose jail time. Although the court indicated that six months of confinement in a house of corrections may be appropriate for the underlying offense, the court suspended any such jail sentence. It is shameful that at the end of a two-day trial that retraumatized the victims, the hate crime perpetrator is walking away with only probation.

By failing to meaningfully sentence the assailants, the legal system exacerbates racism and bigotry. This tragic and violent experience will forever mark the victims’ lives. For the Vasquez family, and the Latinx community as a whole, it was of extreme importance that the crimes were prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but that did not happen. This was an act of terror motivated by prejudice and bias. Every individual should be free to walk their communities and speak their native language without fear of violence.  

Today, at the courthouse steps, Ms. Vasquez cried for justice.

“This is a disheartening result, Ms. Vasquez and her daughter did everything that we could ask of victims. They courageously spoke out against hate and actively participated in the legal proceedings, only to have the outcome fail to reflect the horror of their experience,” said Mirian Albert, Staff Attorney of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “This was a less than desirable outcome that will have a chilling effect on the community by deterring victims of hate crimes to come forward.”

Lawyers for Civil Rights will continue to stand against hate and to support and elevate the voices of victims of hate crimes and their communities. If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please contact Lawyers for Civil Rights at (617) 482-1145 or