WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — A federal grand jury returned an indictment yesterday charging a man with multiple bias-motivated assaults.

According to a release from the Department of Justice, 48-year-old Michael Thomas Pruden has been indicted with five counts of assault on federal land, one count of impersonating a federal officer and a hate crime enhancement alleging that Pruden assaulted four of the victims because of their perceived sexual orientation.

The indictment alleges that on five separate occasions from 2018 to 2021, Pruden went to Meridian Hill Park after dark and assaulted men with a chemical irritant. The park is informally known as a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men.

Before spraying the men, Pruden pretended to be a Park Police officer, shining flashlights on the victims’ faces and giving police-style directives, according to the indictment.

Pruden was arrested in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sunday, July 14. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years for each assault count and a maximum sentence of three years for impersonating a federal officer. The hate crimes sentencing enhancement also increases the potential sentence for the assault counts.

For more information and resources about the Department of Justice’s work to combat hate crimes, visit the website here.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.