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Man found guilty of hate crimes for taunting woman over her Puerto Rico flag T-shirt

The jury, which appeared to be all white, deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before reaching the verdicts against Timothy Trybus.

Mia Irizarry speaks at a news conference in Chicago in July 2018.
Mia Irizarry speaks at a news conference in Chicago in July 2018.
AP

A Chicago man who spewed racist words at a woman in a Cook County forest preserve last year was found guilty of two counts of a felony hate crime Wednesday.

The jury, which appeared to be all white, deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before reaching the verdicts.

As the verdicts were read in the Skokie courthouse, the defendant, Timothy Trybus, removed his glasses, covered his face with his hands and sobbed. He was then taken into custody.

At one point during deliberations, jurors told Cook County Circuit Court Judge Aleksandra Nikolic Gillespie that there had been a disagreement over whether Trybus’ actions against Mia Irizarry amounted to a hate crime. The judge told them to continue to deliberate and about a half hour later, they reached their decision.

One juror, who asked to remain anonymous, said the jury did not make that decision lightly.

“It’s a sad case that wasn’t cut and dry,” the female juror said. “When you look at [Trybus] as another human being, who has joy in punishing that person to the full extent of the law?”

The juror said the jury had to set aside its preconceived notions of what constitutes a hate crime and look at the case through a strictly legal lens.

”When you think of a hate crime, people think of larger things than this,” she said. “But when you look at it legally, rather than looking at this as another human being, we decided it is a hate crime.”

Screen image of Timothy G. Trybus yelling at a woman in the Forest Preserve for wearing a Puerto Rican T-shirt. 
Screen image of Timothy G. Trybus yelling at a woman in the Forest Preserve for wearing a Puerto Rican T-shirt.
via Facebook

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said Trybus’ yelling at Irizarry on June 14, 2018, in the Caldwell Woods was more than simply the behavior of a “racist jerk.”

Irizarry feared for her safety when Trybus repeatedly approached her, getting so close she could feel his breath on her body — all because he didn’t approve of her Puerto Rico flag T-shirt, prosecutors told jurors. Irizarry recorded the event on her phone — a video that later went viral and was a key feature of the trial, which started Tuesday.

“Being drunk, being intoxicated in no way excuses the defendant in what he did,” Assistant State’s Attorney Patricia Berlinsky said.

But David Goldman, Trybus’ attorney, said his client’s behavior “wasn’t hateful as much as it was stupid.”

And Goldman said Irizarry didn’t appear to feel threatened, noting she calmly took out her phone and made a 36-minute video of the incident.

In her rebuttal, Assistant State’s Attorney Sharon Kanter told jurors that freedom of speech is “a hallmark of our democracy ... . However, it is not unlimited. You can’t say anything, anywhere at any time.”

One man, who watched the trial and said he’s been Trybus’ friend for 25 years, said the man isn’t a racist.

“It’s little man syndrome — with a big mouth,” said the friend, who would only give his first name, John.

John said Trybus is a good man who lives in the Edison Park neighborhood, taking care of an elderly Polish woman with heart problems.