Published September 14, 2007
SEA CLIFF, N.Y. – A homeless man was charged with participating in an anti-gay attack on a former "Top Chef" reality show contestant outside a bar, police said.
Matthew W. Walli was in a group of about 12 people involved in a confrontation with chef Josie Smith-Malave, who is a lesbian, and three other women who had just been thrown out of the bar over Labor Day weekend, Nassau County police said Thursday.
Walli's group made derogatory statements about the women's perceived sexual orientation, spat on them and hit them, police said. Walli stole a video camera from one of the women, causing her to fall and hurt her knee, they said.
Smith-Malave, who was featured on Season 2 of the Bravo channel show and had been on Long Island to attend a friend's birthday party, suffered bruises, her lawyer said. Her sister, who is heterosexual, also was beaten, and another woman hurt her head.
Walli, 20, was arrested Wednesday afternoon. He was charged with robbery as a bias crime, which is punishable by as many as 15 years in prison upon conviction, and was to be arraigned Thursday, police said.
He is from Oregon but is homeless in New York and was being held at the county jail, they said. A woman who answered the telephone at the jail said that only the sheriff, who was out of his office, could grant permission to speak to an inmate by phone.
Police, who didn't say what led them to Walli, said they were still investigating the attack.
Smith-Malave, a 32-year-old Miami native, is a former sous chef for the Marlow and Sons restaurant in Brooklyn. She has played for the New York Sharks of the Independent Women's Football League.