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Somerville Man Pleads Guilty to Racially-Motivated Harassment at Sullivan Station

Man repeatedly threatened, harassed African-American MBTA employee at Sullivan Station.

Somerville resident Joseph Balisteri, 39, pleaded guilty Friday, Dec. 27 and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for threatening and harassing an MBTA employee at Charlestown's Sullivan Station with racial epithets, according to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office.

Balisteri pleaded guilty to three counts of violating a permanent injunction, two counts of issuing threats and one count of criminal harassment, an announcement from the attorney general's office says.

Beginning in the summer of 2012 and continuing into March of 2013, Balisteri "engaged in multiple incidents of bias-motivated threats and harassment against an African-American MBTA employee," the announcement says.

Initially, Balisteri targeted the employee at Sullivan Square station after the employee asked the Somerville man to stop smoking in the non-smoking section of the station, according to the announcement. Balisteri threatened and harassed the employee using racial epithets.

In March of 2013, Balisteri punched a Charlie Card machine and than verbally assaulted and threatened the employee. A week later, Balisteri was observed taking photos of the employee, and he said he and his friends would kill the employee.

According to the announcement, the attorney general's office obtained an injunction against Balisteri after a bias-motivated attack against two MBTA riders in 2010. In that incident, the Somerville resident physically and verbally assaulted two female undergraduate students in an attack that was motivated by racial and homophobic bias.

In addition to sentencing Balisteri to two-and-a-half years in prison on the harassment charge, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball sentenced him to two years of probation on the other charges.

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