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Man Who Swung Chair in Viral Assault Video Sues

(CN) - An HIV counselor's night out in New York City went off the rails when he was labeled a homophobic racist for wielding a chair to fend off a gay couple attacking him, he claims in court.

The May 5, 2015, altercation at a Dallas BBQ in Chelsea hit major news outlets across the globe, and had politicians and civil rights groups rushing to judgment.

"Cops hunt thug who beat gay couple with a chair," proclaimed the New York Daily News.

New York City Councilman Corey Johnson meanwhile renounced "the senseless act of anti-LGBT hate violence that was perpetrated last night at a restaurant in my district."

Bayna-Lehkiem El-Amin, the Bronx man who was the target of these headlines, contends in a Nov. 19 lawsuit that there was only one problem: he was actually the victim.

El-Amin, 41, says he arrived at the boisterous barbeque joint with friends at about 11 p.m. on the night in question after attending a charity event.

He says 32-year-old Jonathan Snipes was at a table nearby, arguing with his boyfriend, Ethan York-Adams, 25.

Claiming that the couple nearly fell onto some women sitting nearby, El-Amin says he interceded, saying "guys, come on, there are ladies here."

He says Snipes then "viciously struck" him on the head with a "heavy, blunt weapon" that cut open El-Amin's head.

The attack was "so sudden and completely unprovoked that plaintiff, who was ordering his meal, did not even raise his arms, duck or otherwise defend himself," the complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court states.

"Dazed and bleeding," El-Amin allegedly pushed Snipes to the ground and then tried to walk away.

Snipes nevertheless "continued his attack by grabbing at plaintiff's legs and attempting to claw at plaintiff's genitals," according to the complaint.

York-Adams allegedly "joined in the attack by pushing plaintiff onto his injured back."

With York-Adams blocking, Snipes then grabbed a knife from a table, the complaint states.

El-Amin says no one came to his help, and that the manager even walked away.

Fearing for his life, and "left with no choice, plaintiff grabbed a chair and threw it at his attackers, knocking them to the ground and giving plaintiff time safely to retreat from his attackers by walking out of the restaurant," the complaint continues.

Snipes filed a criminal complaint with the police that night, while Isaam Sharef, another patron of Dallas BBQ, uploaded video of incident to the Internet, according to the complaint.

El-Amin says one of Snipes' friends, Matt Friedlander, then sent Sharef's edited video to CBS News, calling it footage of "a vicious hate crime."

Another friend of Snipes, Sarah Meyers, told DNAinfo "we want this to go viral," according to the complaint.

"Snipes's lies did, in fact, go viral," the complaint states. "Within twenty-four hours of Snipes's CBS interview, millions of people all over the country and around the world were being shown Sharef's edited video and/or plaintiff's photo and told that plaintiff was a violent homophobe."

El-Amin says he "never suspected that he would wake up to a viral news story labeling him a homophobic hate criminal, that he would be entirely isolated, that he would receive so many threats that he would have to go into hiding, or that he would be completely ostracized from society."

Though El-Amin was charged with assault and attempted assault, tabloids noted that he would not face hate-crime charges because he too is gay.

In his complaint, El-Amin insists that his "only crime was to be a man of color wrongly accused by his attacker, a privileged white man, but if convicted plaintiff faces the prospect of spending the rest of his natural life in prison."

El-Amin seeks damages for assault and battery against Snipes and York-Adams, negligence against Dallas BBQ, and defamation against all defendants, including Sharef, Friedlander and Meyers.

He is represented by Donald Dunn Jr. in the Bronx, N.Y.

Sharef did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

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