Photo Gallery | Mariam J. Belarj appears in court
BRATTLEBORO — A Long Island woman is accused of assault and robbery with a weapon in an incident involving an alleged hate-motivated crime.
Mariam J. Belarj, 20, of Medford, N.Y., was arraigned Monday at Windham County Superior Court Criminal Division. She is facing felony charges of assault and robbery with a weapon, and aggravated assault with a weapon. Misdemeanor charges against her involve disorderly conduct, and buying, receiving, possessing or concealing stolen property worth $900 or less. The felony charges carry 15-year prison terms.
This all started when officers with the Battleboro Police Department responded to a store on Elliot Street where a victim of an assault described a male suspect with a long blond ponytail, according to an affidavit.
The victim told police the suspect "began punching and kicking him, driving him (from the store) out into Elliot Street and knocking him to the ground." Belarj then struck the victim in the head two or three times with a beer bottle, stated the affidavit. She had allegedly stolen beverages from him. The victim was treated at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
"I observed lacerations on (victim's) nose and back, abrasions on his right arm and right shoulder blade, and two golf-ball sized lumps on (victim's) head," police wrote. "(The victim) was upset and in obvious pain."
The attack that was considered to be motivated by hate occurred next.
According to the affidavit, an African American victim said she stopped her car because Belarj and the suspect were blocking the roadway. The female victim said she exited her vehicle to pick up broken glass with a handkerchief. The suspect used a racial slur and said, "I'll (expletive) fight you, I'll (expletive) kill you!"
"At that time, the male suspect assaulted (the female victim) in the middle of Elliot Street, punching her repeatedly," police wrote. "Belarj and the male suspect fled the scene."
Belarj, when found by police, allegedly stated she "only hit (the victim) a little bit." But in a recorded statement, she denied it altogether.
Belarj refused to identify the man that was with her or reveal his location, Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steve Brown said in court Tuesday.
"We are certainly interested," Brown said. "We have ideas but we don't know for certain."
Bail was set at $2,500.
Defense attorney Sarah Biolsi Vangel said Belarj had no problem with conditions restricting her from having any contact with the victims. But staying away from Elliot Street in its entirety was "a little broad," Vangel said.
Belarj had no criminal history before this incident.
"I do believe the conditions will secure the safety of the public. I think she understands and is very upset that these are very serious charges," said Vangel. "It seems she made the acquaintance of not the most reputable acquaintance. I don't think she'll have further communication with that acquaintance."
Contact Chris Mays at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.