UC Berkeley freshman charged with battery after alleged assault of roommate

A UC Berkeley freshman who was arrested last week on suspicion of assaulting his roommate was charged with felony battery at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on Tuesday.

Joseph Donner, 19, was absent from court, but his attorney, Peter Orth, was there representing him. The judge issued a restraining order, which will require Donner to remain 100 yards away from his roommate Alexander Nguyen, also 19, and refrain from establishing contact with Nguyen either directly or indirectly.

UCPD arrested Donner on suspicion of robbery and aggravated assault after receiving a report that he attacked Nguyen near the Campbell Hall construction site just before midnight Feb. 18.

Police said Donner made homophobic remarks and demanded Nguyen’s cellphone. Upon reaching the construction site, Donner ordered his roommate to go inside the construction area, police said. When Nguyen refused, Donner punched, kicked and choked him before fleeing the scene, according to a UCPD crime alert released the day after the alleged incident.

Despite allegations that Donner made offensive remarks to Nguyen, Orth said that what happened was not a hate crime and was not an issue of prejudice.

“This is about a young man — a kid, really — who had a psychotic episode,” he said. “This is very sad, and (Donner) is receiving treatment.”

Orth said Donner and his family are “mortified” that someone was hurt as a result of his condition.

“Roommates have disagreements all the time,” said UCPD spokesperson Lt. Eric Tejada. “But having it escalate to this level is rare.”

In 2012, UCPD responded to five reports of aggravated assault. According to preliminary data obtained by The Daily Californian, that number rose to 14 in 2013.

Donner’s bail was set at $50,000 at the arraignment, lower than the $180,000 previously set. His next court date is scheduled for March 5 at the Wiley W. Courthouse.

Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @savluschei.