Graduate student charged with assault granted curfew extension to take classes on campus
The student was charged in attack on gay Asian man and family in August
Content warning: This story contains mention of assault. This article has been updated with a recent announcement from the University that Trebat is no longer affiliated with AU.
The Superior Court of the District of Columbia recently granted a modified curfew for a former American University graduate student who is charged with multiple counts of “bias-related” assault so he can attend classes on campus.
Patrick Trebat, a former graduate student in the Kogod School of Business, was arrested on Aug. 7 off of Wisconsin Avenue after he “unlawfully assaulted and threatened” Sean Lai and his parents, fracturing Lai’s finger and leaving his father with a broken wrist and mother with arm pain, according to court documents. Charging documents state that Trebat shouted homophobic slurs and anti-Asian remarks at Lai and his family during the incident. The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a complaint in the form of criminal charges against Trebat before the Superior Court on one count of assault and two counts of assault with significant bodily injury.
Trebat was released under a High Intensity Supervision Program, which transitioned to a curfew at the end of August. At the beginning of September, Trebat filed a motion to extend his curfew from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. to accommodate an evening class at AU. The court granted this motion. Trebat did not respond to request for comment.
Chief Communications Officer Matthew Bennett confirmed that the University did not play a role in Trebat’s motion to extend the curfew.
On Saturday morning, Bennett told The Eagle in an email that Patrick Trebat "is no longer affiliated with American University and is not allowed on campus.” Bennett declined to provide specifics, but said that "the matter was concluded" last week.
Trebat’s counsel, Brandi Harden, is an adjunct professor at the Washington College of Law. Harden declined a request for comment.
Bennett declined to comment on Harden, but said she “is acting in her non-university capacity in a legal matter that [the] University is not party to.”
According to Bennett, the University closely follows the student code of conduct when faced with off-campus arrests like this one.
“When we are made aware of a situation like this, it gets referred to the appropriate offices,” Bennett said. “If the case involves a legal proceeding or a police matter, then obviously AUPD is informed as well.”
Section XVIII of the student conduct code states that the dean of students or their designee will administratively adjudicate the case when a student has been accused of a non-academic offense “where the student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime” for certain misconduct.
“Our commitment is to the safety and well-being of our community — that is always first and foremost,” Bennett said. “So we take that into account no matter what is going on with the circumstances of any case, and take the appropriate steps.”
Anti-Asian violence is not new in the United States; anti-Asian hate crimes rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Daniel Chapman, co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Queers United for Action DC (AQUA DC), said that the coronavirus has only exacerbated these issues.
“Since COVID-19 last year, there has been much more anxiety amongst our communities here due to growing anti-Asian sentiment and violence,” he said in an email statement. “As a result, I have definitely felt a stronger sense of solidarity within our diverse community.”
Chapman also said that community members have set up support networks for affected victims, and AQUA has specifically built networks between queer API folks in addition to donating to causes such as a #StopAsianHate rally in northern Virginia.
AU Asian American Student Union released a statement on social media Friday evening denouncing the curfew extension and the University’s silence on the matter. AASU is hosting a virtual healing space for the AU Asian American community on Oct. 10 at 4 p.m. and Oct. 11 at 7 p.m., according to the post. Georgetown University's Asian American Student Association, AU's South Asian Student Association, Project Penyou, the Philippine-American Coalition, AU Hawai'i Club and the Korean Student Association cosigned the statement.
Erin Enriques, a co-president of the AASU, said she wants to see the University respond in a way that holds itself accountable. Enriques, although unsurprised by AU not making the community aware of Trebat’s presence on campus, said she fears for the safety of fellow Asian students.
“I was disappointed, but I wasn’t really surprised … I also was pretty worried for my own friends, we’re all at AASU,” Enriques said. “And because people take classes in the evening, and if [Trebat] is being allowed to take classes in person at night, it still puts people and the community at risk, for both students and faculty.”
Enriques said she doesn’t want the University to respond by increasing police presence on campus, but she’d like to see more transparency.
“In the future, I do want to see AU be more upfront about things, [especially] people who are associated with AU, and especially if they’ve committed hate crimes,” she said.
Moving forward, Enriques said that AASU plans to work with other AAPI organizations on campus to create spaces and resources for students to feel safe.
“AU has not done right for their POC students and faculty,” she said. “[The University has] not protected them.”
Matthew Ong, a close friend of Lai for over five years, saw the ways in which the attack deeply impacted Lai and his parents.
“Sean and his elderly parents are severely traumatized by the attack,” he said. “What happened to them is despicable — they don’t deserve to have anti-gay slurs yelled at them or be told ‘you don’t belong here.’ They don’t deserve to get beaten to the ground just for existing.”
Ong, like Lai, is an immigrant of Chinese descent and said that seeing a close friend get hurt because of his identity was “painful and worrying.” Lai, who got his PhD and accepted his identity as a gay man in D.C., feels unsafe in his own neighborhood, Ong said.
However, Ong has hope: “Sean and his family are resilient. They, along with Sean’s diverse community of friends, want justice and accountability,” he said. “Racist beliefs and predatory behavior have no place in our lives.”
In terms of University action, Ong shares the same sentiment as Enriques.
“Administrators at American University must prioritize the physical and mental well-being of their minority students, faculty and staff,” Ong said. “No one, including Asian and LGBTQ+ people, should have to fear for their lives just for walking down the street.”
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Correction: A previous version of this article contained a typo in data on anti-Asian attacks on the rise. The language surrounding the charges filed has been corrected.