Patrick Roque, Ysabel Roque, attorney Sandy Roxas and Patricia Roque outside Van Nuys Courthouse West Aug. 7 telling their supporters of the plea deal. (Photo Courtesy of Jhenine Cordero)

More than a year after they were assaulted, the Roque family has decided not to go ahead with a trial due to dissatisfaction with the court system and the dropping of the hate crime enhancements from the charges.

After an Aug. 7 court hearing, it was announced that the Roque family had decided not to take their case to trial, opting instead to accept a plea deal. The defendant, Nicholas Weber, is being convicted on three counts: two counts of assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury against Gabriel and Nerissa Roque and one count of misdemeanor DUI.

At the final court hearing, he will be sentenced to two years of probation. As part of the plea agreement, Weber is required to complete 40 hours of an individual anti-bias treatment program, 40 hours of a group anti-bias treatment program and participate in an 18-month alcohol program.

Weber is also required to complete over 800 days of county jail time; he has already served over 400 days. As explained by Sandy Roxas, the family’s attorney, his good time/work time credits will count as time served and Weber will be released from custody after the final hearing.

At the hearing, members of the family will read their victim impact statements to the court.

“Many of the community members have reiterated publicly … that it’s a hate crime, but feel that with current laws and legal standards, the definition of a hate crime, or even to meet the standard of a hate crime, is really weak right now.” 

Jhenine Cordero

Jhenine Cordero, a youth leader for the organization Anakbayan Los Angeles, said that the family decided to go for a plea because they felt it was the best option they had.

“The big reasons why don’t want to take it to trial was that it wouldn’t be representative of what they actually experienced … they were all there when the hate crime enhancements were dropped,” Cordero said. “And it’s also dissatisfaction with how they’ve been represented in the court and even with the prosecution. They felt that going to trial would be more exhausting for them.”

This decision comes 15 months after the family was assaulted outside of a McDonald’s restaurant in North Hollywood. On May 13, 2022, Nerissa was with her daughter, Patricia, at the drive-thru lane when they were rear-ended by Weber. He drove up next to them, hurled racial slurs and drove off. He came back not long after and threatened to kill them. The women called 911 and Patricia’s father, Gabriel. He arrived before the police did.

Weber pushed Gabriel to the ground and wrapped his hands around Nerissa’s neck. A bystander helped to subdue the assailant and stayed at the scene until the police arrived. Gabriel sustained multiple injuries, including a broken rib, and was taken to a hospital.

(Left to right) Patrick, Ysabel and Patricia Roque crouching on the ground with their fists raised in the air outside of Van Nuys Courthouse West with dozens of supporters behind them. (Photo Courtesy of Jhenine Cordero)

Weber’s assault charges carried hate crime enhancements, but they were dropped by Judge Neetu S. Badhan-Smith in an April 17 preliminary hearing.

Although the family and community groups that have rallied around them have attended multiple court hearings to try and get justice, they have instead felt mistreated. The family has experienced numerous delays — it took 11 months for them to have their day in court — and when under cross-examination, Weber’s defense attorney’s line of questioning seemed to imply that the Roques were more interested in receiving media attention and donations rather than be in regular contact with police authorities about the incident.

There was also a time during a preliminary hearing when an interpreter mistranslated part of Gabriel’s testimony before another interpreter had to interrupt the court proceedings to provide the correct translation; the judge later threw out the part of Gabriel’s testimony that was mistranslated.

“There’s been a bunch of different emotional responses [from the community] ranging from anger to disappointment, but not … directed at the family, but really the system itself,” Cordero said. “They’re saying things like, ‘Oh, this is the best they got? This is as far justice can go when it comes to actually holding someone accountable for a hate crime?’

“Many of the community members have reiterated publicly … that it’s a hate crime, but feel that with current laws and legal standards, the definition of a hate crime, or even to meet the standard of a hate crime, is really weak right now.”

There is a silver lining, however, that has come about through all the campaigning. The family has become more active in community organizations — Patricia helped establish the Pilipino Youth Kollective (PYK) at CSUN, and Gabriel and Nerissa joined Migrante Los Angeles.

They plan to look beyond the court system and advocate for policy change. One of the things at the top of their list is advocating for better assistance to Filipino nationals from the Philippine Consulate, as the family felt they were not well supported over the past year.

“This campaign that they’ve been fighting for all this time was leading up to this point,” Cordero said. “And now that understanding that, regardless of the outcome in court, it wasn’t going to give them the justice they rightfully deserve. So yes, they’re disappointed, but they also recognized that so much more came out of this than they initially thought, and it was through the community organizing and grassroots effort that they built.

“Yes, [the mood] is somber, but I think they also feel inspired to continue fighting.”