NYC's "Free Hugs Guy" Punches Woman Who Refuses To Tip

| by Jordan Smith
Jermaine HimmelsteinJermaine Himmelstein

A 24-year-old man offering "free" hugs near Manhattan's Times Square punched a woman May 12 after she refused to tip him.

Known as "free hug guy," Jermaine Himmelstein was arrested by a New York Police Department new recruit four hours after the incident, which involved a Canadian tourist, New York Daily News reported.

The incident occurred at around 11 a.m., when the 22-year-old woman, identified by police as Sophie Violene Dauvois, was walking with a friend. Himmelstein approached carrying a sign that said “free hugs,” and Dauvois took a photo with him.

He lashed out when Dauvois did not offer him a tip, resulting in a black eye, cuts and bruises.

“I was aggressively asking for tips,” Himmelstein said as he left the police station, according to WNBC.

He was charged with robbery and assault.

Himmelstein has a long record of run-ins with the police, having been arrested 16 times since 2012.

Just a little more than one week prior to the latest incident, he allegedly assaulted a woman at the 49th Street subway station on April 29.

“You will respect me when I knock you out,” he reportedly said during the attack, before fleeing the scene.

Earlier in April, police arrested Himmelstein on a criminal mischief charge for assaulting a 25-year-old woman on April 17.

In another incident, he tossed a soda can at a woman who refused to hug him in Washington Square Park. The woman suffered bruising to her face.

In another Washington Square Park attack, he allegedly said to a victim, “You’re pissing me off, and I assault people when I’m mad.”

Lemonia Sitaras, a Brooklyn resident, contacted WNBC on May 12 to say she saw the same man punch a woman last year on the Coney Island boardwalk after she did not tip him.

“He needs help, he’s hurting people,” Sitaras told WNBC.

It remains unclear whether Himmelstein has served any prison time for the series of assaults.

Himmelstein began offering free hugs for one dollar in Time Square and Greenwich Village in 2013. He made up to $30 per hour on an average day.

Himmelstein’s mother said at the time that he was autistic.

Sources: WNBC, New York Daily News / Photo credit: Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News

Should Himmelstein serve prison time?
Yes - 0%
Yes - 0%