Tuesday , January 10, 2017 - 5:00 AM
Marissa-Bella Satori poses for a portrait on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, at the Standard-Examiner studio in Ogden.
OGDEN — After being assaulted last week in an Ogden movie theater, a transgender woman believes she was attacked for more than just looking at her cellphone.
Marissa-Bella Satori, 31, of Ogden, went to Megaplex Theatres on Tuesday, Jan. 3, to take advantage of its $5 Tuesday deal. During the 1:10 p.m. showing of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Satori said she pulled out her phone to see why it vibrated.
When she did, an older man sitting five seats down the aisle from her grabbed her phone and threatened to smash her face with it, Satori said.
Satori detailed what happened next.
“I said, ‘Give me back my phone,’” she said. “People around us were telling him to give me my phone, that I wasn’t bothering them. They told him to sit down. I said, ‘You have no right to touch my phone,’ and I sit down.
“Next thing I know, he lunges over this woman, grabs me by the neck ... and literally starts to try to strangle me. He has all his weight on me and starts whacking at me. The patron above me jumps down and pulls him off of me. Then the guy runs out of the theater, and people ask if I’m OK, I say yes, then, ‘Somebody stop him, I’m pressing charges against that man.’”
The altercation did not go unnoticed. Theater personnel called the police, and Satori exited the auditorium and began talking to nearby employees. She saw her assailant walking away and pointed him out.
“That’s the guy, that’s the guy right there. You need to stop him,” she remembers saying. “They told me the cops would get him in the parking lot.”
But that didn’t happen. The man got away.
“I see the officers coming in, and I tell them I’m freaked out,” she said. After determining the incident was not a fight — as theater personnel initially reported — police took Satori’s statement and interviewed witnesses who exited the movie to help her.
The police report coded the incident as a simple assault, but Satori believes it could have been a hate crime. The Ogden Police Department is investigating that possibility.
“I honestly feel like the guy was just waiting and watching, waiting for an excuse to do something to me,” Satori said, noting he entered the auditorium right behind her and sat nearby. A day later, Satori visited the Standard-Examiner to share her story and pointed out a scratch and bruised area on her neck.
According to the police report, Satori’s legal name is Hans Jenkins.
“Hans initially stated that the assault was a hate crime because he was transgender,” the report says. “However, Hans was not dressed with clothing predominantly worn by women. He did not have long hair, and had no other obvious indications of that. He stated he was wearing makeup and that’s how the offender knew. However, Hans admitted it was too dark to even see what the other guy looked like.”
The man who pulled Satori’s assailant off her supplied a witness statement, saying he observed the male walk over, grab her neck and strike her loudly because she was on her phone.
One witness was able to provide blurry video of the assailant leaving the property, indicating he was a white man with white or blond hair who appeared to be about 50 or older. He wore dark pants, a light-colored shirt and tan jacket.
According to OPD’s Lt. Will Cragun, the case is under investigation.
“If something indicates that it’s more than a simple assault, we will pursue that and charge accordingly,” Cragun said.
Jeff Whipple, vice president of marketing for the Megaplex Theatres, said all surveillance footage and evidence has been handed over to law enforcement.
When asked if such assaults occur very often, Whipple said that cellphone use is an ongoing challenge in the theater industry.
“We remind people to put those phones away,” Whipple said, adding that theater personnel undergo extensive training to handle emergency situations.
“They followed the procedure beautifully. We have a great relationship with OPD and are working with them as best we can to bring the situation to a resolution,” Whipple said.
Satori said she’s been assaulted before — once in a bar and once in a restaurant — and didn’t report the incidents. She felt it was important to speak out this time.
“I find that this is important because a lot of people know that transgender and non-binary and queer and gay and lesbian people have our rights, but we don’t really have our safety,” Satori said. “Had I been a natural, biological woman, there’s no way in hell that wouldn’t have already been in the news — a woman being assaulted in a theater.”