It seems “free hugs” aren’t that free after all. Times Square’s “Free Hug Guy” aka Jermaine Himmelestein, was reportedly caught on camera assaulting a 21-year-old Canadian woman who refused to tip him after on of his hugs late last week.
On Thursday, the New York City Police Department said a 21-year-old woman took a picture with Jermaine Himmelstein, 24, of East Harlem, who was holding a sign in Times Square that said “free hugs.” Police said Himmelstein then demanded three times that the woman give him money — and she refused each time. After the third denial, police said he punched her in the face when she tried to walk away.
She was cut above the right eye, and was treated and released at Roosevelt Hospital. The woman is originally from Canada, but is living in Midtown.
When asked by reporters about the incident Himmelstein responded “I was aggressively asking for tips.”
Himmelestein has an ongoing history with violet incidents, even one as recent as April 29th.
He is charged with robbery, fraudulent accosting assault, assault in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree and harassment in both incidents.
In the criminal complaint, police said the suspect admitted to detectives that he sucker punched his victims because they refused to tip him. In each case, he followed the victim because he was upset. In the April 29 incident, the victim said the suspect asked her, “what do you think I’m a rapist?”
This is the 16th time since 2012 he’s been arrested, with other notable violent crimes including punching a woman on the Coney Island boardwalk in 2015, and throwing a can of soda in the face of a woman who refused to hug him in Washington Square Park back in 2013.
Himmelestein’s bail is set at $5,000, with a May 18 court date. Check out the video above of the alleged assault.