VIDEO: 'Free Hugs Guy' Punches Woman in the Face for 'Refusing to Tip,' Has 16 Arrests

Chris Menahan
May. 15, 2016

Newly released video shows the "free hugs guy" punching an innocent Canadian woman in the face after she refused to give him a tip.

24-year-old Jermaine Himmelstein has evidently made a career out of offering "free hugs" then assaulting women who don't give him "tips" in return.

WABC reports Himmelstein has been arrested 16 times, including just days ago on April 29th for punching another young woman in the face under the exact same circumstances. He reportedly told his victim, "You will respect me or I will (expletive) knock you out."

Despite his history of violence, the bureaucrats in New York felt it was A-OK to release him back into the streets.

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Cameras captured the moment a woman was punched in the face by a costumed character in Times Square Thursday morning.

One of EarthCam's cameras was pointed right at the area where the ordeal unfolded - Broadway and West 46th Street.

The NYPD said the man who punched the 21-year-old tourist from Canada, 24-year-old Jermaine Himmelstein, was holding a sign that said "free hugs."

The woman took him up on the offer and got her photo taken with Himmelstein. Police said he then kept asking for cash, but she wouldn't give it to him.

When she tried to walk away, police said Himmelstein punched in the face. The video shows it happen - the woman flies backwards and lands on the ground, and her attacker runs off.
More on his criminal history via WABC:
Himmelstein also was arraigned in a punching attack on a 23-year-old woman on April 29 as she was waiting for the subway near Times Square. He is accused of telling the victim, "You will respect me or I will (expletive) knock you out."

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?"

Bail is set at $5,000 for that incident and Thursday's. He will be back in court on May 18.

Himmelstein has been arrested 16 times since 2012. He is accused of punching a woman in the face on the Coney Island boardwalk last year.

In April 2013, he was arrested for throwing a can of soda at a woman who refused to hug him in Washington Square Park. The can bruised her face. The same month, he was charged with assaulting another woman who refused to hug him in Washington Square Park. He allegedly told her, "You're pissing me off, and I assault people when I'm mad."

Himmelstein is part of a group of characters who move from Times Square to Union Square to Coney Island in the summer. He is known to New York University students at Washington Square Park.

According to a 2013 New York Times profile, Himmelstein said he makes up to $30 an hour on an average day. "I give out free hugs," he explained, "to make people stay better."
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