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SAN DIEGO – A man who is accused of roughing up three women who were wearing Muslim headscarves in Little Italy pleaded not guilty to hate crimes Monday.

Kyle Allen, 50, was charged with three counts of battery with hate crime allegations.   Battery is typically a misdemeanor, Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh said, but the hate crime allegation made it a felon case.If he’s found guilty on all charges, he could face 4 years and 4 months in prison.

According to Trinh, the three women were walking near the corner of Beech and Columbus streets when they encountered Allen.

“The defendant shoulder-checked one of them,” Trinh told the judge. “He struck another with an open hand, and then he grabbed the hijab and ripped it off the third woman while saying, ‘Go back to your country. Go back from where you came.’”

Attorneys for Allen presented a different story, saying their client is not a racist.

“Mr. Allen is not a racist whatsoever. Obviously these allegations — it looks like he may be that way, but he’s not,” defense attorney Kerry Armstrong said.

Armstrong said his client is innocent. He claimed that Allen was beat up by witnesses following the incident.

“I’ve got some pictures.  He has a huge cut and a big bruise on the side of his face,” Armstrong said.

After the alleged incident with the three women, witnesses led police to Allen’s apartment. When they knocked on his door, he answered holding a gun. Armstrong said his client had the gun because he was frightened after being attacked.

“The police come in and either rattle the door or opened the door. He thought the bystanders were coming to get him and had followed him, so he came to the door with a gun, which he has every right to do,” Armstrong said.

Allen originally faced a weapons charge, but it was subsequently dropped. However, police confiscated 10 guns from his apartment, and Monday Judge Joseph Brannigan ordered police to continue holding the guns for the time being.

Brannigan also granted protective orders preventing Allen from contacting the alleged victims or being within 100 yards of them.

Allen, who posted $50,000 bail, is due back in court on Dec. 5 for a readiness conference, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Dec. 19.

After the hearing, Trinh said his office has seen a significant uptick in hate crimes in the last couple years.

“We’ve seen about a 40-percent increase in the last three years which is concerning.”

“Hate crimes do not affect just the immediate victims; there’s a ripple effect to those who share a victim’s religion, race, ethnic background, sexual or gender orientation, or disability,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “No one in San Diego County should be afraid of exercising their religious freedom and my office is committed to holding individuals accountable  –in this case and others — when hate is the basis of their crimes.”