By Carol Tannenhauser
She is known publicly only as “the hostess,” a 24-year-old woman allegedly attacked by three female tourists from Texas on September 16 at Carmine’s restaurant on 91st and Broadway. The altercation involved vaccination cards and claims of a racial slur. The Texans were arrested.
On Tuesday, October 5, they returned to the city for their arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, as their Desk Appearance Tickets had ordered. Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, 44, Sally Rechelle Lewis, 49, and Tyonnie Keshay Rankin, 21, were charged with assault in the third degree, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail, and attempted assault and harassment. All pleaded not guilty. They are due back in court on November 18.
The details of the case have emerged and changed over time, supported by Carmine’s surveillance video footage. The three women had been seated inside the restaurant when they were told that their friends had arrived without vaccination cards. (NYC’s vaccination mandate for indoor dining had gone into full effect earlier that week.)
Carmine’s owner said that the women repeatedly asked for their friends to be seated inside anyway, and were incensed when the staff would not let them sit.
One video clip shows the hostess walking from an indoor area back outside, and the Texans spinning around and following. Once outside, one of the women pushed into the hostess. A brawl ensued.
Why the altercation started is the question. The defense attorney claims the hostess uttered a racial slur to the Texans.
“The hostess suffered a concussion, extensive bruising and scratches on her face….One defendant allegedly yanked off her necklace, breaking it and leaving a laceration, court papers allege,” according to the New York Post.
The hostess was not at the arraignment — a crime victim is not required to be there by law. But she sent the following statement, through her attorney, to West Side Rag.
On September 16th, I was working as a hostess at Carmine’s. The law requires us to check whether people are vaccinated. I did my job in order to protect my co-workers and the other customers from the possibility of getting the COVID virus. The accusation stating that I said a racial slur is unbelievable. I am a Korean immigrant, I was born in Seoul, Korea. I have the utmost respect for all BIPOC. I would never call anyone a racial slur. People lying about that is even worse than being physically assaulted. I want to make sure that neither myself nor my fellow co-workers are attacked again for trying to protect ourselves and our customers from the COVID virus.
West Side Rag has attempted to contact an attorney for one of the women, but has not heard back.