Designer who was attacked during a fashion show wants to take a public stand

Five years after independent fashion designer Pol’ Atteu was attacked at a Make-A-Wish Foundation fashion show in Los Angeles, the conviction of his attacker has prompted Atteu to take a more public stand in the fight against hate crimes.

Jesus Rodolfo Zepeda defeated the designer in September 2019 at St. John’s Cathedral, and Zepeda was sentenced last month to five years in state prison, but only had to serve four days in a provincial jail due to other provisions. The conviction included a ten-year restraining order. But he was given credit for time served and the remainder was given for time already served, barring further violations. Referring to last month’s sentencing, Atteu said on Monday: “It was very difficult to be in the courtroom while he was there. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen him [in court]because I had to testify several times.”

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After being beaten and sworn at because of his gender identity, the designer said it was essential the act was recognized as a hate crime by the court. California law defines a hate crime as a criminal act or credible threat of violence against a person or group of people in which victims are targeted because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability.

Atteu said he intended to prove that “this was not just a brutal beating, but something that was very well thought out, and [a matter of] hating someone they didn’t know because I’m gay.” Atteu said he has chosen to take the case to court on Monday. He also wanted to ensure that the offense counts as “a second strike” for Zepeda, who committed another illegal act that was not a hate crime, Atteu said.

“I feel like everyone before us in the LGBQT+ community has fought so hard to be recognized and to have the community recognized. I thought that if I didn’t go through with this with the vigor that I did, there was no way I would be able to live with myself knowing that I would have let the entire community down,” Atteu said. “Being part of that community makes me who I am.”

His husband Patrik Simpson, who appears with him on the Amazon Prime reality show ‘Gown and Out in Beverly Hills’ and witnessed the attack, said: ‘It’s shocking to me that in 2024 we still have hate crimes and people who don’t. are comfortable with or do not accept LGBQT+. It’s a crazy city. Crazy city.”

John Padilla Yutan, a lawyer for Zepeda, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Atteu suggested stricter hate crime laws and that he would have to “go the extra mile” in court “for anyone who would come after him” to put things right. As “a well-known gay couple,” he and Simpson will work with GLAAD, the West Hollywood Gay and Lesbian Community Center and the Advocate to draw attention to this issue. “We want to create a coalition where we can support and help individuals who have been through this and may not have the resources or platforms to make their voices heard. We want to be a sounding board, a safe haven and a platform where we can fight to make people realize that this is something that happens day in and day out, especially in this community,” Atteu said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 11,288 single-bias incidents involving 13,2787 victims in the US in 2022. Of that total, 17.2 percent was attributed to sexual orientation. In California that same year, there were 1,495 hate crimes against people, nearly 19 percent of which were due to sexual orientation. That overall figure was an increase of 66.1 percent from 2021.

Simpson said: “If telling Pol’s story means that one person who committed a hate crime can come forward, be brave and have the courage to tell their story to police and pursue prosecution, then I glad we We are coming forward.”

With season five of “Gown and Out in Beverly Hills” coming out late this summer, the pair plans to weave judgment and resolution into the story. They also headline the weekly podcast “Undressed with Pol’ and Patrik” with another celebrity guest available on Apple, Spotify and YouTube. Atteu and Simpson host the weekly “Runway Rundown” segment on Jeff Lewis’ “Extended” show on Radio Andy Sirius XM.

The designer said Monday that he first saw the attacker, later identified as Zepeda, during auditions for the show at his Beverly Hills flagship. Atteu said Zepeda was there under false pretenses, posing as a modeling agent. “His whole character was very uncomfortable, so he was led away from the property,” he said.

Zepeda later appeared at the fashion show and, according to the couple, falsely pretended that his 9-year-old daughter was there. The designer had a collaboration with Disney star Ava Kolker at the time and, according to Simpson, had enlisted the children of other celebrities to participate in the show. When Atteu recognized Zepeda in the hair and makeup room, he had him escorted out. Zepeda sneaked back to the grounds, hid behind bushes in the cathedral courtyard and attacked him from behind, Atteu said on Monday.

He and Simpson were also filming “Gown and Out in Beverly Hills” during the show. That’s why there were about 550 people there, including a production crew, as well as models and runway show guests like producer George Tillman Jr. Simpson said he saw Atteu being punched and called a “fu#*ing fa*#ot.” and again,” but couldn’t reach him because of a blocked entrance, Simpson said. About a dozen of the swimsuit-clad models lined up and within earshot of the screams, some were knocked over and others tried to stop Zepeda as he fled, the couple said. A hired security guard was on site, but had taken a restroom break without notifying anyone. Atteu spent two and a half days in hospital with a concussion, an injured shoulder and severe bruising. He said he still feels “the intensity of the blow” to the back of his head that started the attack. Reached on the set of “The Bay,” the Peacock series for which he manages the wardrobes, Atteu said he now always positions himself so that no one can “sneak behind him.”

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