Quincy man, 77, accused of 'disturbing' alleged hate crime is released without bail

QUINCY − A 77-year-old Quincy man has been released from police custody after a judge said he did not pose a significant danger to the public following an alleged hate crime that left one man injured late last week.

The suspect, John Sullivan, appeared in Quincy District Court on Thursday. Prosecutors played a cellphone video and the audio from two 911 calls in relation to an incident downtown.

Sullivan, of Granite Street, is accused of yelling at a family of Asian Americans outside the Washington Street post office before allegedly hitting one of them with his car and pushing the man into a construction ditch.

He was charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a civil rights violation, reckless driving, assault and battery to intimidate with bodily injury and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash causing personal injury. He was arraigned last week and, on Thursday, a hearing was held to decide if he was too dangerous to be released.

John Sullivan, 77, of Quincy, appears in Quincy District Court on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, for a dangerousness hearing related to an alleged hate crime.
John Sullivan, 77, of Quincy, appears in Quincy District Court on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, for a dangerousness hearing related to an alleged hate crime.

Judge Neil Hourihan said Sullivan could be released without bail on the conditions he wear a GPS monitor and stay with his daughter full time, with the exception of medical appointments. He is not allowed to contact the victim, own a gun or use drugs or alcohol. If he does not appear for his next court date, he could be fined $10,000.

Assistant District Attorney John Murphy asked that Sullivan be held in custody for 120 days and said this is not his first run-in with police. Murphy said Sullivan has a 2018 charge of threats to commit a crime and was charged in 2005 with intimidation of a witness. Information on prior charges was not immediately available at the courthouse.

In court Thursday, Quincy police officer Patrick Watkins said he responded to a 911 call reporting "disorder involving a motor vehicle" Dec. 2. When he arrived, Desiree Thien told him she was standing outside the post office with her brother and children when Sullivan quickly drove down Washington Street and "exchanged words" with pedestrians in the area about the speed at which he drove through the neighborhood.

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Sullivan reportedly screamed at the family to "go back to China" before allegedly hitting the Asian man with his car and driving for about 50 yards with the man on his hood. A 10-second video shown in court showed Sullivan's car stopping near Foster and Washington streets, where the victim gets down and punches the hood of the car. The car then moves forward slightly, hitting the man again and knocking him into a 15-foot construction ditch.

By the time he got to the scene, Watkins said the victim's "clothes were covered in dirt and he was walking with a limp." He said Thien "was extremely upset, and there was a lot of yelling. She said her brother got hit and there was yelling of 'going back to China' during the incident."

The video shown in court did not include any yelling by Sullivan, and his attorney said the car barely moved when it knocked the man into the ditch. He argued with the wording of Watkins' initial police report, which said Sullivan accelerated in a "fast, deliberate manner" to knock him into the construction zone.

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"The vehicle did not travel even a car length," defense attorney Patrick Donovan said.

Hourihan said, "The video shows the gentleman standing in front of the car and the car going forward. Whether it was going fast or not is irrelevant." He said "a punch goes from the shoulder to the chin; the distance doesn't make any difference."

Donovan said the victim hit the hood of the car with his fist so hard, it left a dent.

Murphy, the prosecutor, said, "I think that was probably a result of being on the hood of the car and having racial slurs yelled at him, his sister and his nieces and nephews. The civil rights violation is disturbing, judge, but it's also a person being shoved by motor vehicle into a 15-foot ditch."

Donovan said he's heard versions of events that do not include Sullivan yelling "go back to China," which brought the civil rights violation charge by police.

John Sullivan, 77, of Quincy, appears in Quincy District Court for a dangerousness hearing related to a hate crime on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.
John Sullivan, 77, of Quincy, appears in Quincy District Court for a dangerousness hearing related to a hate crime on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.

"We have an eyewitness who was on the scene who didn't hear any screaming. The alleged victim says this is all about the screaming, but we have a witness who was there who heard nothing, and that's the crux of the case," Donovan told reporters outside the courthouse. "The video doesn't pick up any threats, any racial slurs. ... There is absolutely no evidence this is a hate crime."

Thien told police she was recording the incident when Sullivan "knocked the phone out of her hand."

"I felt very angry because I've never had direct racism towards me," Thien told WCVB, The Patriot Ledger's media partner. "He said, 'Go back to China. I'm going to go into the post office and come back out in five minutes. If you're still here, I'm going to kill all of you.'"

Sullivan is due back in court for a pretrial hearing Feb. 11.

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Reach Mary Whitfill at mwhitfill@patriotledger.com.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Quincy man, 77, released without bail after alleged hate crime