MIDTOWN — The arts and culture journalist who faces a long road to recovery after being attacked in Midtown last week allegedly escalated the fight by kicking a woman in the chest during an altercation on the sidewalk, according to a criminal complaint from the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Randy Gener, 46, who did work for publications including The New York Times, National Public Radio, and the Village Voice, was walking on Seventh Avenue between West 54th and 55th streets on Jan. 17 when a low-level fight blew up into a brawl that ended with a knockout punch that left Gener with brain injuries, prosecutors said.
After initially investigating the openly-gay Gener's injuries as the result of a hate crime, prosecutors said Wednesday night that Gener escalated the incident by lashing out at a woman who bumped into him on a sidewalk, kicking her in the chest after she threw her purse at his head, according to a criminal complaint.
Leighton Jennings, 24, leaped from his car after seeing the kick, prompting Gener to kick him in the stomach, according to the complaint released after Jennings' arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.
In response, Jennings punched Gener in the face, knocking him back onto the sidewalk and cracking his skull. Gener required brain surgery, relatives have said.
Jennings was released without bail after being arraigned on third-degree assault charges on Wednesday night, prosecutors said.
Gener remains in the intensive care unit of St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital and faces up to a year of recovery, his family said. A YouCaring online fundraiser had raised over $56,000 for Gener's recovery expenses by Thursday morning.
Relatives said they couldn't believe the prosecutors' account of the incident, but confirmed that police contacted Gener's husband, Stephen Nisbet, on Wednesday night to ask if Gener was trained in any sort of martial arts.
"Absolutely not, no, he doesn't," Gener's sister, Jessica Driessler, told DNAinfo New York. "He was the kid who got made fun of because he stayed at home all day reading. I have never seen my brother hurt a woman before."
An attorney for Jennings did not immediately respond to a request for comment.