Hate crime charge for NYC woman nabbed in SoHo restaurant gay pride rainbow flag fire; ‘All fake!’ she yells in court

A woman caught on video torching a gay pride rainbow flag outside a SoHo restaurant incoherently screamed her innocence Wednesday at a bizarre court appearance before she was led away in handcuffs.

“False accusations!” howled Angelina Cando, 30, who was held for a psychiatric exam pending a March hearing. “It’s all fake! ... Let me free! He is King!”

Cando was charged with arson and criminal mischief, both as hate crimes, for using a lighter to ignite the rainbow flag hanging outside Little Prince, a French restaurant on Prince St. It was her third arrest in less than a month, police said.

“They’re lying!” Cando yelled in one outburst before she was led from the Manhattan Criminal Court hearing.

Cando was also hit with three counts of criminal mischief and multiple graffiti charges for using a marker to scribble on a Manhattan subway platform — including the message “Jesus is King,” written twice.

The defendant, who appeared in a suit jacket and handcuffs with her hair up in a bun, scrawled the same thing on two NYPD vehicles, prosecutors said.

Her defense lawyer described the hearing as an “impossible situation,” adding he was not going to “muzzle” the defendant. The grand jury in her case was put off until March 22 pending the mental health evaluation.

The ponytailed Cando was captured on video exiting a white SUV about 1:30 a.m. on Monday in front of the restaurant before using a lighter to ignite the rainbow flag, which read “Make America Gay Again,” police said.

She was then seen reentering the SUV, driven by someone else, and fleeing the scene.

Workers inside the smoke-filled restaurant escaped without injury. The fire also damaged Little Prince’s front awning. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.

A replacement flag celebrating gay and trans pride was hung at the restaurant Tuesday by City Councilman Erik Bottcher, who represents the neighborhood.

A building superintendent who knew Cando told the Daily News the suspect has a history of homophobic run-ins.

“A lot,” said Love Texidor, the super in a building on Mott St. where Cando recently lived with a boyfriend. “She wasn’t a tenant, just the crazy girlfriend of a tenant.”

“The crazy girl?” said a Mott St. neighbor Wednesday. “She knocked on my door a couple of weeks ago when she was freaking out. Everybody in that building knows her.”

Cando was arrested Jan. 30 for an incident involving a 67-year-old relative in their apartment. Police said she threw a plate and a glass at him and struck him with a guitar, leading to charges of assault, criminal mischief and criminal obstruction of breathing.

The victim suffered cuts and in the attack. Cando used “her lower and upper arm to apply pressure to his neck by forcefully squeezing it,” a criminal complaint alleged. She faced nine charges from assault to harassment in the case.

She was released without bail after her arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court but arrested again Feb. 2 for threatening a man with a knife in a pizzeria on Stanton St. on the Lower East Side.

Police said Cando stepped inside the pizzeria to get warm, then wound up arguing with a customer and grabbing a knife from behind the counter. She was charged with menacing, weapons possession and harassment and again released without bail after appearing in court.

A criminal court complaint recounted Cando coming at the man while waving the blade. A temporary restraining order against Cando was issued in the case.

In 2019, a rainbow flag was set afire outside a Harlem gay bar twice twice in a little more than a month, once in June, Pride Month, and once in early July.

A 20-year-old man was later arrested for both incidents at the Alibi Lounge on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. near W. 139th St.

Reports of hate crimes citywide are way down this year compared with last, according to the most recent NYPD data.

So far this year through Feb. 12, 39 people have reported bias-related crimes to the NYPD. The figure is a 43.5% decline from the corresponding period last year that saw 69 hate crimes.