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Long Island Cabbie Busted for Hate Crime

May 6, 2006

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) _ A Long Island taxi driver was arrested and charged with a hate crime after police said he shouted racial epithets while hitting a man with his cab outside a convenience store.

Robert A. Rossetti Jr., 56, of East Quogue, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of second-degree assault and second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime. He was ordered held on $5,000 bail.

Police said Rossetti argued with the victim, who they identified as Cesar Cedillo, outside a 7-Eleven early Thursday, then got into his cab and struck him twice, shouting slurs throughout the encounter.

Police said Cedillo told them he was a day laborer who was outside the store looking for work.

Newsday, which interviewed the victim, identified him as Jonathan Cedillo, a 21-year-old of American Indian and Mexican-American descent who recently moved from California to Riverhead to work as a yacht detailer.

Cedillo suffered muscle and tissue damage to his right knee, the newspaper reported.

Cedillo said that before getting into the cab, Rossetti slapped a hamburger out of his hands and yelled at him.

``He was cursing at me, telling me I’m an immigrant and to get out of this country,″ Cedillo said. ``I told him, `Dude, what are you talking about?‴

Detective Ted Raffel said the store has recently attracted protesters rallying against illegal immigrants.

There was no listed telephone number for a Robert Rossetti in East Quogue. It was not clear if he had an attorney.

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