Veteran seeking dismissal of criminal charge for subduing suspect in attack on Muslim lawmaker

Feb 1, 2024, 7:00 AM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A military veteran who rushed to the aid of Connecticut’s first Muslim state representative when she was being attacked after a prayer service and subdued the suspect is seeking to have a misdemeanor assault charge erased.

Jason Spencer, 43, applied Wednesday for the state’s accelerated rehabilitation program, which would result in the charge being dismissed if he successfully completes a period of probation.

“I took an oath to defend this Constitution, to defend the country, to defend all the citizens,” Spencer told reporters after his appearance in Hartford Superior Court. “If I see someone needing help I have to intervene, and I feel all citizens should do that.”

Police, however, allege Spencer went too far when he kicked the suspect in the face after he stopped struggling.

State Rep. Maryam Khan, who was assaulted last June, joined Spencer and his lawyer outside the courthouse and criticized Spencer’s arrest.

“It is unfair that someone that assisted a woman being attacked is having to defend himself in our system,” she told reporters outside the courthouse. “Jason Spencer should be rewarded for his bravery, should be celebrated, uplifted and not criminalized.”

Khan, a Democrat who lives in the Hartford suburb of Windsor, has said she and her family were taking photos outside of a Hartford arena when a man approached and said he “intended to have sexual relations” with one of them, including Khan’s 15-year-old daughter. Her family was marking Eid al-Adha, the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca.

Khan said the man grabbed at her face and shirt, demanding a kiss, and later slapped her across the face and held her in a chokehold, giving her a concussion and injuring her right arm and shoulder. She then fell and he ran. Spencer and another man chased down and subdued the suspect, Andrey Desmond, police said.

Desmond was charged with several crimes including attempted sexual assault, strangulation, assault and risk of injury to children. He has pleaded not guilty. Court records show he has a history of mental illness, and a judge in December approved his public defender’s request for a mental health evaluation.

Spencer, of Coventry, is a former Army sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, his lawyer, Aaron Romano, said.

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Veteran seeking dismissal of criminal charge for subduing suspect in attack on Muslim lawmaker