Crime

Plano Woman Faces a Second Lawsuit Over Racist Attack Against Four Indian Americans

Esmeralda Upton of Plano, right, berated four women outside of the Sixty Vines restaurant on Dallas Parkway in West Plano on August 24.
Esmeralda Upton of Plano, right, berated four women outside of the Sixty Vines restaurant on Dallas Parkway in West Plano on August 24. Screenshot from Facebook
A second woman has filed a lawsuit against Esmeralda Upton, a Plano resident caught on video attacking and hurling racist insults at a group of Indian American women as they were winding down a night out in late August.

Indrani Banerjee and three friends met at the restaurant Sixty Vines for dinner on Aug. 24. As the four  walked back to their cars after dinner, Upton approached them and “began verbally threatening and slandering them and physically assaulting them,” according to her lawsuit, filed last week. This was Banerjee and her friends’ first interaction with Upton.

“You’d like to think we’ve got to a point in our society and our culture where this sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore,” James Walker, Banerjee’s attorney, told the Observer. “I think we’ve made substantial progress in that regard as a society. I think there’s far less of this sort of overt racism today as there was 20, 30, 40 years ago. But, there’s that time where someone’s truly exposed, and they really show you a glimpse of what’s written on their heart, and it’s an ugly sight.”

The Observer contacted several email addresses and phone numbers listed for Upton and her husband but did not receive any response.

Esmeralda Upton of Plano faces two misdemeanor charges and now two lawsuits over a violent, racist attack in August.
Courtesy of Plano PD
Banerjee's suit says Upton “launched into a series of scurrilous racial slurs,” saying things like “I hate you fucking Indians” and “if things are so great in your country, then stay there.”

Banerjee started to record Upton on her phone and told her friend to call the police. That’s when Upton physically attacked Banerjee and her friends, according to the lawsuit. At one point Upton reached into her purse and threatened the group, screaming, “You turn off that phone or I swear to God I’ll fucking shoot your ass.”

The suit says, “It was in this moment that Banerjee was terrified and reasonably feared that her life and the lives of her friends would end in a Plano parking lot at the hands of a racist lunatic.” Throughout the attack, Banerjee made every reasonable effort to de-escalate the situation, the lawsuit says.

“It really rocked her." – James Walker, attorney

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Officers with the Plano Police Department eventually showed up to separate Upton from Banerjee and her friends. Upton told officers that she attacked the women because they were “videoing and saying all of this shit that I wasn’t doing. And that's what they do. Just like the Black people.” She also told the officers she was “Native-American” and “Mexican-American” and “lives in a $1.5 million house.”

Despite the video of the attack and Upton’s refusal to take a breath test for alcohol, she wasn’t arrested and was allowed to be driven home. The next day, police arrested her on two misdemeanor charges, assault causing bodily injury and making terroristic threats. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.

Banerjee claims in her suit that the attack left her with severe emotional distress, and she now lives in fear for her and her family’s safety. Walker said Banerjee is being treated for PTSD because of the attack. “It really rocked her,” Walker said.

One of Banerjee’s friends who was also attacked that night, Bidisha Rudra, filed a similar suit against Upton last month. They’re seeking monetary damages to compensate Banerjee for her physical and emotional distress. Walker said the damages also are meant to send a message to Upton and others.

“We also need to send an important message to the larger society that … it’s got to stop,” Walker said. “One important component of exemplary or punitive damages is the deterrent effect that it has when other individuals that might be prone or inclined to act in a similar fashion as Ms. Upton at some future date see what happens to Ms. Upton because of what she did and how she conducted herself. Maybe it gives them that moment of pause when they’re in the next parking lot and about to come unglued or come off the rails on their own.”

Walker said Upton’s actions are indefensible, but he speculated what defense she may offer in court. A common defense in situations like this that Upton may use, Walker said, is the idea that alcohol may have gotten the better of her that night.

Given Upton's refusal to take a breath test, Walker said, she might have a hard time arguing she was drunk. If Upton were clearly drunk, police may not have let her leave after refusing the test.

“We’ll see what [the police] have to say, but I have to presume that they did not determine she was intoxicated,” Walker said. “I don’t even think she has that in her arsenal.”

He’s not sure how to explain Upton’s actions “other than she’s an overt racist,” Walker said. “She has a lot of hate written on her heart, and she acted that day in a matter totally consistent with her beliefs and her views. Sometimes it’s Occam's razor: The most obvious explanation is the correct one.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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