Disturbing cellphone video recorded on a New Jersey Transit train shows a man accused of assaulting a conductor spewing hateful profanity against him.
The video was shot by Kore James of Paterson, who said he stopped recording and rushed to the conductor's aid when things got physical at the Ridgewood train station.
James, a 28-year-old landscape architect, said Thomas Vitulano was already on the the Hoboken-bound train when he got on Monday afternoon in Allendale.
"The conductor that was punching holes in tickets was coming around checking everyone's ticket," he said. "The gentleman didn't have a mask on and the conductor asked him kindly to please put a mask on."
Vitulano, 30, of Weehawken, "immediately started a verbal argument with him," James said. "They started going back and forth, back and forth, and eventually it became physical. That's when I cut the video and ran down and put the man in a restraint to get him off of the conductor."
He brought Vitulano down, he said, then "stayed on top of him" while calling police.
Ridgewood officers responded to the village train station and held onto Vitulano for their NJ Transit colleagues.
"You should've heard him mouthing off to the cops," a witness at the train station told Daily Voice.
Meanwhile, an NJ Transit officer interviewed James.
WARNING: The video below contains profanity and hate speech.
James said he began recording the 90-second video after Vitulano began his harangue.
"Wait till the f**king train leaves, n****r," Vitulano tells the conductor. "White people are gonna get an ass-whuppin' on you."
The conductor motions his hand at Vitulano to mimic talking. "That's all you do," he tells him.
"Cause you're a f*ggot," Vitulano responds, "cause you're kicking me off the train for no reason, for no reason, right?"
"You're talkin' sh*t," the conductor says. "That's why you're getting kicked off."
"Yeah, yeah," Vitulano responds sarcastically. "Cause my day today, I wanted to talk sh*t to you. That's what I planned on doin', you f**kin' bitch. Go walk up the stairs."
"Who's the bitch?" the conductor asks.
"You, n***r!" Vitulano shouts. (Story continues below)
"I'm not gonna catch a charge over your bitch ass," Vitulano tells the conductor. "And that's what makes you walk away -- cause you have to legally, you bitch."
The conductor turns.
"I'll knock the sh*t out of you -- legally," he tells Vitulano.
"Step off the train, n****r. Step off the train," Vitulano shouts. "Go back to f**kin' Haiti. I'll stick a f**king thing up your ass."
At that point, Vitulano went after the conductor, James said. (Story continues below)
James, who jumped from his seat, wasn't buying any hero talk.
"In a situation like that you don't think," the father of three said. "I just hope that someone would do the same thing if that was my family in trouble."
An ambulance took the conductor to the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood for treatment of injuries that weren't considered serious, a transit spokeswoman said.
Vitulano, who was treated by Ridgewood Fire Rescue personnel for a cut on his ear before NJ Transit police took him away, remained held in the Bergen County Jail pending a first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.
Transit police charged him with two counts of aggravated assault on a conductor -- one for accosting the victim and the second for spitting on him, they said -- in addition to interfering with transportation and disorderly conduct.
An agency spokeswoman said NJ Transit is "extremely disturbed by the reprehensible display of racially-charged hate speech directed at one of our train crew members in this video."
"This type of behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances on the NJ Transit system, and this individual should be banned from riding the system," Senior Public Information Officer Emma Wright said.
"We want the public to know that incidents of this nature, including all allegations of our employees being assaulted, are taken very seriously," Wright noted. "Individuals who contemplate doing harm to our employees will be apprehended and aggressively prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
State laws mandates penalties of up to five years in state prison and up to $15,000 in fines for assaults on conductors and bus operators.
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