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A gay designer was attacked at a California fashion show in 2019. His assailant was just sentenced

prominent fashion designer Pol Atteu husband Patrik Simpson celebrate fashion show runway models
Courtesy Pol' Atteu & Patrik Simpson

After years of legal proceedings, justice is served in the high-profile hate crime assault on fashion designer Pol’ Atteu.

Cwnewser

After nearly five years of legal proceedings, a court ruling has brought closure to a notorious 2019 assault case involving prominent fashion designer Pol’ Atteu. The designer was attacked during a charity fashion show at St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles, an event intended to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation and featured in the couple’s Amazon Prime Video reality show, Gown and Out in Beverly Hills.

In September 2019, Atteu was assaulted by an attendee, later identified as Jesus Rodolfo Zepeda, who was upset that his daughter had not been selected to participate in the fashion show. Atteu suffered severe injuries, including a concussion and bruises, necessitating a two-day hospital stay. The assault, caught on security footage, showed Zepeda fleeing the scene, and he was later apprehended but released shortly due to COVID-19 pandemic-related jail constraints.

Related: Dad Beats, Hurls F Word at Gay Designer After Daughter Cut From Runway

Last week, Zepeda was sentenced to a total of five years in state prison for his assault on Atteu, with certain conditions of the sentence allowing for probation. The sentence includes stipulations that heavily monitor Zepeda’s behavior, with immediate imprisonment for any violations, even minor infractions. Initially, Zepeda is required to serve four days in county jail, credited for time already served, with the rest of the prison sentence suspended unless he commits further offenses.

prominent fashion designer Pol Atteu hospital bed attacked Jesus Rodolfo Zepeda hate crimeCourtesy Pol' Atteu & Patrik Simpson

In an interview with The Advocate, Atteu, 58, and his husband, Patrik Simpson, 55, shared their lengthy and frustrating journey to justice, which culminated in a conviction and a court acknowledgment of the attack as a hate crime. “I don’t think I was given justice,” Atteu said. “I don’t think we were able to find a resolution, and I understand that it had to fall within the guidelines of what the law is, but it wasn’t there to protect me, it wasn’t there to help me.”

The court’s decision included a 10-year order of protection for Atteu and Simpson, they said.

“This is [Zepeda’s] second time, and so now if he gets pulled over, or if he says something derogatory, negative, or does anything bad, he will go to jail for a minimum of five years,” Simpson noted about the strict conditions set by the court.

Reflecting on the ordeal and the court’s final acknowledgment of the hate crime, Atteu expressed relief and determination. “It was important for us to bring attention to it and to make sure that this was, in fact, duly noted as a hate crime, as it was,” he said.

prominent fashion designer Pol Atteu husband Patrik Simpson famous gay coupleCourtesy Pol' Atteu & Patrik Simpson

The couple said that investigators appeared not to take the attack seriously and that they had to advocate for prosecutors to categorize the attack as one based on homophobia.

Despite the resolution, both men acknowledge that the scars of the incident linger, but they are committed to turning their painful experience into a force for change within the legal system and beyond.

They are now looking forward to using their platform to advocate for others hesitant to report hate crimes.

As the legal battle unfolded over the years, the couple faced numerous challenges with the justice system, they said, which initially hesitated to classify the assault as a hate crime. This hesitation was a source of significant frustration for Atteu and Simpson, who were adamant about the importance of acknowledging the attack’s homophobic undertones. Simpson recounted their persistence: “We were very specific about it that we’re not accepting anything, and Pol’ said we’ll go to trial next week if this is not included.”

The acknowledgment of the assault as a hate crime was a critical victory for Atteu and Simpson. It highlighted the often unseen struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ community face when interacting with the justice system, especially in cases involving hate crimes. Atteu emphasized the broader implications of their fight for justice, noting, “It’s so difficult to go through. I’ve been blessed.”

prominent fashion designer Pol Atteu husband Patrik Simpson famous gay couple appear Jeff Lewis Live showCourtesy Pol' Atteu & Patrik Simpson

“I want to see if I can advocate for others and maybe give them insight into how it could be done, what documentation needs to be filled, where they go to get the kind of help they need,” Atteu said.

They plan to continue their advocacy beyond just legal battles. They aim to engage with community support groups and legal advocates to ensure that others don’t have to endure the same lengthy and often disheartening process.

“We’re both very charitable, so I think that is something we’re going to [do] — be a spokesperson for someone that has gone through something horrific and figure out a way that we can join forces with others to create a movement or something where it could assist and help others that are afraid,” Simpson said.

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).