NORWICH – 32-year-old Jacob M. Fowlston was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with a hate crime, stemming from an assault charge brought against him Saturday.
It is now alleged that Fowlston, at approximately 3:45 a.m., on Dec. 24, 2016, on Fair Street in Norwich did intentionally commit the crime of assault in the third degree, as a hate crime.
In itself, the assault charge is a class A misdemeanor, and alleges that he “with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person.”
Following Wednesday’s arrest and the addition of the hate crime allegations, it’s further alleged that the assault involved racial epithets, and Fowlston now faces class E felony charges.
Per New York Penal law, a person is guilty of assault in the third degree as a hate crime if he, “Intentionally selects the person against whom the offense is committed or intended to be committed in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct; or intentionally commits the act or acts constituting the offense in whole or in substantial part because of a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.”
Judge James E. Downey presided over Fowlston’s arraignment which was held Wednesday following his arrest by Norwich Police Department’s Detective-Sergeant Reuben Roach.
Downey said it is alleged that Fowlston followed the victim, David Jennings, down the street and called him three different racial slurs [omitted], before, during and after striking the victim in the head multiple times. Downey said the charges allege it was “because of the victim’s color.”
Fowlston also faces the charge of criminal mischief in the fourth degree, where it is alleged that he, while having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he intentionally damaged property of another person.
Judge Downey said that it is alleged that at the same time and place as above, it’s alleged that Fowlston did damage the property of Jennings by breaking is glasses into pieces.
Downey continued to read the description of the charges to the accused, adding that with the intent to cause physical injury, it’s alleged Fowlston physically injured Jennings by punching him with a closed fist causing lacerations to both eyes.
Downey provided all statements from the victim, and the charges against Fowlston to the defendant at the time of the arraignment.
Downey advised Fowlston of his rights, including: his right to be represented, right to an assigned attorney if he could not afford one, right to a jury trial, the right to represent himself, the right to enter a plea, the right to have bail set on the matter and the right to a felony hearing.
The People were represented by Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride and Assistant District Attorney Laura Parker.
When asked if he wanted representation on the matter, Fowlston responded in the affirmative.
He also said, “Yes, sir,” when Downey asked if he would like an application for a public defender.
“The allegations are very, very serious,” said McBride. “This is a serious crime. While the defendant does not appear to have a criminal record, he has every reason to flee this jurisdiction due to these charges. The people ask that the court set bail at a reasonable $25,000.”
Downey asked Fowlston questions so that he could determine what he thought would be a reasonable bail based on the charges.
Fowlston said he was born and raised in Norwich, is married with children, and has held his current job for two years. He told the court he has relatives in the area including his parents, aunts, and uncles.
Fowlston said the last time he left the state of New York was approximately one month ago, for a work training in Wisconsin. Prior to that, Fowlston said he has not left the state in ten years.
Downey asked Fowlston if he has ever been arrested. “No,” said Fowlston. Downey further inquired as to if he has ever been arrested outside of the state of NY. Fowlston again said no.
Downey set bail at the amount of $10,000 cash or $25,000 bail bond.
“When you get to the Chenango County Correctional Facility you can call anyone you want,” said Downey. “You can call your wife, a bail bondsman, whoever. And when you get the information regarding your public defender, make sure you get in contact.”
“If you make bail,” said Downey, “Make sure you get in contact with your public defender. If you don’t make bail, whoever is assigned to represent you will go down and visit you at the jail.”
Downey issued an order of protection for Jennings, and ordered that Fowlston have no communication with him. He reiterated that this not only includes direct communication by Fowlston, but also indirect communication via a third party on Fowlston’s behalf.
Downey said if Fowlston were to violate the order of protection he would be charged with criminal contempt.
Additionally, Downey said if Fowlston posts bail and fails to appear in court, Downey will sign an arrest warrant.
Fowlston is presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
McBride said if found guilty, Fowlston faces 1 1/3 to 4 years in the NYS Department of Corrections for the hate crime charge, and up to one year in local jail if found guilty on the criminal mischief charge.
According to the the Corrections Division at the Chenango County Correctional Facility, Fowlston was no longer in their custody as of 5:58 p.m. Wednesday.
In a previous interview with The Evening Sun, the victim said, "I went to a friend’s house on Christmas and every time a car came up behind me I got nervous. To know he lives in this town, I’m nervous."
The victim's brother Dan Jennings said, “Dave has never, ever been scared to walk down the street like he is after this.”
Dave added, “I would like to think this isn’t indicative of the people of the City of Norwich, or Chenango County, as this has always been a friendly place. A place where people say hi to strangers on the street, not accost them from behind.” He additionally extended his gratitude to the police and to who called 911.
“Hopefully this is something that will not be widespread with the political climate the way that it is,” Dave said.
Fowlston is to appear in Norwich City Court for his felony hearing Tuesday at 11 a.m.