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USA Hate Crime Conviction in Attack on Sikh Cab Driver

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

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    Hate Crime Conviction in Attack on Sikh Cab Driver
    By - indiawest.com March 17, 2011 01:35:00 PM


    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two assailants involved in the brutal attack of Harbhajan Singh here last November (I-W, Dec. 10) admitted Mar. 7 to committing a hate crime against the 56-year-old Sikh American cab driver.

    Pedro Ramirez will be sentenced with up to 13 years in jail and Johnny Morales, who could serve up to one year in jail, entered into a plea agreement on Mar. 7 which allowed them to avoid a jury trial which was to start the same day. On Nov. 28 of last year Singh was severely beaten and robbed by two passengers in his cab as they yelled racial and ethnic slurs and called him Osama bin Laden.

    S ingh, who wears a turban and beard in accordance with his faith, managed to escape but sustained serious injuries, including multiple lacerations, a fracture in his face and another one on his spine.

    The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund immediately issued a letter to local authorities, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney and the FBI requesting that they initiate a hate crimes investigation into the attack.

    According to Singh’s attorney Amar Shergill, Singh is still healing from the physical and mental injuries he sustained during the attack, but looks forward to returning to work.

    “Mr. Singh is pleased that his assailants have admitted their crimes and will serve an appropriate sentence,” Shergill stated in a SALDEF press release. “In light of the recent shooting of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove (see separate story), the Sikh community takes some solace in the fact that law enforcement authorities aggressively prosecuted these crimes and that the greater community has been so supportive.”

    “Attacks on innocent individuals are always inexcusable, but crimes motivated by racial, ethnic or religious bias are especially heinous and have no place in our society,” said SALDEF associate executive director Jasjit Singh.

    “We are pleased with the outcome of this case and that it was properly pursued as a hate crime and applaud the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for this prosecution and the West Sacramento Police Department for their exemplary work in apprehending the assailants.”

    Former SABA-NC Civil Rights Committee chair Harmeet Dhillon had said in an earlier India-West story that judges frequently toss out verdicts or refuse to allow cases to proceed, based on hate crime charges.

    “Until the prosecutors and state court judges in California firmly apply these laws on the books, criminals will continue to terrorize and stigmatize an entire community on the basis of their faith, with impunity, in direct violation of California law,” Dhillon told India-West.

    “Cab drivers are on the frontlines of the community and exposed to everyone on the demographic scale,” Jasjit Singh had said, adding that “turbans and beards are very visible symbols to people who may be misinformed.”

    Stronger measures to protect cab drivers must be taken, he had asserted. Taxi drivers in the region are discussing distress lights on top of a cab which can be activated quickly by drivers; a partition separating passengers from cabbies; and increased police patrols, he said.

    According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven, Harbhajan Singh was driving the defendants and their wives home from Harlow's Bar in Sacramento. During the cab drive, Ramirez shouted racial epithets and accused Singh of being Muslim.

    Ramirez punched Singh in the face about ten times while Morales punched him from behind, Raven stated. The ongoing attack continued causing Singh to suffer multiple lacerations, a fracture of the orbital bone in his face and a spinal fracture. Ramirez attempted to pull Singh from the car but was prevented by the driver's seatbelt.

    Ramirez's wife stopped the beating by throwing her body between Singh and her husband, Raven stated. Morales and Ramirez then pulled Ramirez's wife from the car, allowing Singh to escape in his taxi.

    http://www.indiawest.com/readmore.aspx?id=2997&sid=1
     

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