An Illinois woman that was initially charged with battery has now been upgraded to a hate crime by the state attorney’s office after police said she initiated a racist confrontation with three Black men at a Chicago beach.
Irene Donoshaytis previously was charged with battery following an Aug. 17 dispute she had with Otis Campbell, his friend and his cousin, over whether they were allowed to be near a pier along Lake Michigan in Winnetka.
The 25-year-old said he had just returned from a 15-mile bicycle ride and was relaxing at the pier when he was approached by Donoshaytis, who allegedly started a verbal attack on the young man.
“This is America. This is America, you can’t do this. I’m from Winnetka,” said Donoshaytis to Campbell, the Chicago Tribune reported. “You need to go back where you’re from.”
The Northfield resident complained about the group’s presence to a Winnetka Park District employee, who explained to Donoshaytis that the pier was public property and a beach pass was not required.
Campbell, who appeared amused and shocked by what was happening, videotaped the heated exchange.
Donoshaytis was recorded saying she felt threatened because the man, referring to Otis Campbell was Black and then proceeded to hit him twice.
“Are you crazy? What, you want to kill me?” Donoshaytis asked Campbell. “No? It feels like it.”
Campbell replied: “Why would I want to kill you? Is it because I’m Black?"
“Yes,” responded Donoshaytis.
Campbell called the police and when they arrived arrested the 65-year-old woman.
Jeffrey Fagan, Donoshaytis’ attorney, told the Tribune that his client was a refugee from the Soviet Union who escaped persecution there and that “her story and version of events is a misunderstanding between the parties that was escalated based on the timing of where we are as a culture.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors said, white cyclists who were present in the same area were not confronted by Donoshaytis.
Donoshaytis has received threatening letters and phone calls since the incident made national headlines, her attorney said.
Judge Anjana Hansen set bond at $10,000 and ordered Donoshaytis to have no contact with the alleged victim or eye witnesses and to surrender her passport.
Donshaytis is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 23.
Campbell seemed relieved with the outcome and told the Tribune in a text that “this situation could have ended very differently, in tragedy even. I’m just happy I’m here to be able to tell my story and watch the justice system play out the way it’s supposed to.”