DA drops assault charges against Bensonhurst dad who was defending teen son

The Lei family outside Brooklyn Supreme Court following Thursday's dismissal
The District Attorney dropped charges against Ting Duo Lei on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of the office of state Sen. Iwen Chu

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has dismissed assault charges leveled against a Bensonhurst father who stepped in to defend his teenage son against an adult attacker in September.

Ting Duo Lei, 52, was arrested and charged with assault on Sept. 30 after he allegedly hit 24-year-old Hassan Saab after a violent altercation broke out when Saab showed up at the Lei family home allegedly looking for Lei’s son Brian. Saab had reportedly attacked 13-year-old Brian two days earlier following a schoolyard scrap involving some of Saab’s younger relatives.

Members of Bensonhurst’s Asian community and local politicians rallied in support of Lei after footage of the incidents — including Lei fighting off Saab in his front yard — began circulating on social media.

“We would like to thank the parents and community organizations and community leaders for their overwhelming support,” the Lei family said outside Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday morning. “We also want to thank our spokesperson Karlin Chan for helping us during this difficult time and understanding the legal system.”

Karlin Chan, spokesperson for the Lei family, told Brooklyn Paper he was glad the DA “followed the evidence” and concluded his actions were in self-defense.

“This was essentially a home invasion when Saab tried to go into Mr. Lei’s property. I hope this sends a clear message to all New Yorkers that they should feel safe in their homes,” said Chan. 

The Lei family and their spokesperson Karlin Chan speaking to the media alongside Sen. Chu following Thursday's hearing
The Lei family and their spokesperson Karlin Chan speaking to the media alongside Sen. Chu following Thursday’s hearing. Photo courtesy of the office of state Sen. Iwen Chu.

Speaking outside the court, State sen. Iwen Chu applauded Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for “doing the right thing” and dropping the charges against Lei.

Chu, who represents Senate District 17, previously met with the Gonzalez to advocate for the charges to be dropped. She said that this was a case against a “father and husband that defended his child against violence from an adult man.”

“I have been in direct communication with the Lei family and stood by their side since this horrific act of violence occurred, attending community rallies against bullying, working with local police precincts, and bridging the communication between the DA’s office and the family,” Chu said.

Chu added that she will continue to support the Lei family as they prepare to testify against Saab, who was also charged on Sept. 30 after the incident at Lei’s home. Saab has been charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon, acting in a manner injurious to a child, disorderly conduct and harassment.

Saab’s case will be presented to a grand jury in the coming months. The Lei family is also hoping Saab will be charged with a hate crime, claiming that he was yelling anti-Asian slurs upon arriving at their home on Sept. 30. 

“We do not tolerate acts of violence against our children and families, and we continue to seek justice for Brian,” Chu said.

rally in bensonhurst for Timothy Lei
Community members rallied in support of Lei last month. File photo by Adam Daly

The violent incident at the Lei home stemmed from a fight that occurred between a group of Brian’s friends and another group students during a basketball game outside the Madeline Brennan Intermediate School in Dyker Heights. After the fight, a pair of brothers reportedly left the court and returned with adult family members, including Saab, who allegedly chased and assaulted Brian and another student.

The Leis alleged that two days later, on Sept. 30, Saab arrived at their Bensonhurst home with a bat, looking for Brian. Confronting Saab, Lei retrieved a shovel and broom from the house, and the scene quickly escalated into violence. The community quickly came to Lei’s defense after he and Saab were arrested. 

Council Member Justin Brannan was among the local politicians who backed community calls for the charges to be dropped, penning a letter to the DA on Oct. 17.

After the charges were dismissed Thursday, Brannan thanked Gonzalez for hearing and responding to the community’s concerns about the case.

“I am thankful for the careful and considerate process he undertook, which has culminated, upon a close review of the facts, in all charges against Mr. Lei being dropped,” said Brannan. “Eric has always been a thoughtful and deliberate DA, and I know the community appreciates his leadership in bringing these painful events to a just resolution.”