Man charged in anti-Asian rant against Olympic athlete


Sakura Kokumai. photo by USA Karate

Sakura Kokumai. photo by USA Karate

ORANGE, Calif. — Prosecutors filed a hate crime charge against a 26-year-old man Sept. 24 in connection with an anti-Asian rant targeted at a Japanese American Olympic athlete in Southern California earlier this year.

The defendant, Michael Orlando Vivona, was previously charged with attacking an elderly Asian couple while they took a walk in the park. Vivona remains in jail on $65,000 bail. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The attacks in Orange County took place in April and are among a wave of anti-Asian sentiment that has sometimes turned violent nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Vivona was charged Sept. 24 with one misdemeanor count of violation of civil rights, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. While prosecutors have not identified the victim, Olympian Sakura Kokumai posted a video of the April 1 encounter in Grijalva Park in the city of Orange.

Kokumai, a karate champion who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, was wearing headphones and talking on the phone in the park when Vivona began aggressively yelling at her, prosecutors say. He threatened her and spit in her direction.

“I was trying to process what was happening, but at the same time, I realized he was far bigger than me,” Kokumai told the Los Angeles Times. “As much as I know that I practice karate and I am an athlete and I’m quick on my feet — you still don’t know what can happen.”

Less than three weeks later, Vivona allegedly ran up to an elderly Korean couple walking in Grijalva Park and punched the man in the face. He then punched the man’s wife in the head, causing her to fall, prosecutors said.

Bystanders intervened and police arrested Vivona, who later allegedly made disparaging statements about Asians to police. He was charged in that case with two felony counts of elder abuse, two felony counts of battery — hate crime causing injury, and two felony hate crime enhancements.

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