A University of Delaware student from Newark, Del., has been formally charged with a hate crime following his , also a student at the university, at an off-campus party on April 15.
According to a police report, Derek Didonato, 21, was arrested Wednesday and charged with offensive touching as a hate crime. He stands accused of pushing Zachary Baum, an 18-year-old gay student, to the ground after making a derrogatory comment about Baum's sexual orientation.
Baum, who turned 19 two days after the incident, said he arrived at the party wearing a pink sash that read "Birthday Girl." He said he and four friends left the campus and headed to Cleveland Ave. looking for a party to go to. When they found the party at the house at around midnight, they paid a cover charge to get in.
According to the police report, that's when Didonato allegedly made a derrogatory comment about Baum's sexual orientation. Shortly after that, Baum said, other males at the party poured beer on him and Didonato knocked him to the ground and began choking him.
Didonato and two others are also facing charges related to the "loud party" at the house that night, a Newark police spokesman said. Didonato has been released on $1,000 bail. He is also facing consequences at the university, according to a University of Delaware spokeswoman.
"The student was found responsible for violating the Code of Conduct and received sanctions. ... The incident was handled administratively through the Office of Student Conduct," the spokeswoman said.
Baum said he was not injured but was heavily shaken by the incident – so much so that he came home to Setauket and missed about a week's worth of classes.
"You never think it will happen to you, but you always know there are people that it happens to," he said in an interview with Patch. "But it happened and now we have to deal with it and make sure it doesn’t happen to other people."
Didonato could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, who voted in 2009 for a measure that strengthened federal hate crime laws, said in a statement to Patch he would monitor the investigation in Newark.
"Crimes motivated by hate harm the fabric of our society," Bishop said.