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USA Man Accused of Brutally Beating Sikh Reverses Plea

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

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    Man Accused of Brutally Beating Sikh Reverses Plea
    indiawest.com April 12, 2011 01:52:00 PM

    Pedro Ramirez, accused of brutally attacking Sacramento cab driver Harbhajan Singh last November, reversed his plea bargain April 1 during his sentencing for 13 years, while his co-conspirator Johnny Morales accepted his sentence of 300 days.

    Ramirez pleaded not guilty, saying he did not understand the plea deal (I-W, Mar. 18). He accused his private attorney, Patrick McCarthy, of providing ineffective assistance of counsel. Ramirez said he was no longer able to afford an attorney, and was then assigned to public defender Bob Spangler. He is scheduled to return to court April 15.

    Morales was sentenced to 300 days in jail, minus time served. He was also ordered to pay $15,000 restitution, prohibited from having weapons and given three years of probation following his release from jail.

    Yolo County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Raven told India-West, “I didn't know Ramirez would do that, but nothing really is a surprise.”

    While neither defendant has provided testimony, Raven said Ramirez was much more culpable because he did most of the beating, and was therefore due to receive a longer sentence of 13 years at last week’s sentencing.

    When Ramirez returns to court April 15, he may decide he had originally made the right choice by accepting the plea bargain, and would then be sentenced to 13 years in prison.

    If he continues to plead not guilty, a briefing schedule will be set for Ramirez to ask the court to formally reject the plea, explained Raven. “Generally, these motions – often called ‘buyer’s remorse’ — are not granted,” he said, adding that if the motion is granted, the case would go to trial.

    Morales got almost the maximum sentence for his role in the beating, said Raven.

    Both Ramirez and Morales had been charged with hate crimes after they turned themselves in, following a five-day man-hunt. Morales did not plead guilty to a hate crime, explained Raven, adding that Ramirez had shouted most of the racial epithets and could receive a sentence of 20 years if convicted of all charges with hate crime enhancements.

    “The attempt by Mr. Ramirez to back out of the plea agreement is a desperate tactic to avoid jail,” Amar Shergill, Singh’s attorney, told India-West, adding, “Claiming ineffective assistance of counsel is the last resort of the guilty.”

    “Mr. Ramirez should be careful what he wishes for as he may be convicted by the jury of attempted murder and a hate crime, resulting in a significantly longer sentence than the 13 years already agreed to,” said Shergill.

    On Nov. 29 night, Ramirez and Morales – allegedly inebriated – exited Harlow’s, a popular nightclub in Sacramento, and hailed down Singh, who drove them to West Sacramento.

    Once there, the pair got into an argument with Singh, 56, allegedly yelling “f*&k you, Osama bin Laden,” and “f$%k you, Arabian,” while violently beating the cab driver.

    Singh, who has worked with the SMART Cab Association of Sacramento for about four years, has not returned to work since the brutal attack. He was taken to UC Davis Hospital, where he was treated for more than nine hours and received seven stitches in his head.

    Singh also sustained bruising along his rib cage, a broken nose and eye injuries.

    In an emotional interview last December, Singh told India-West he would not return to taxi driving, as he feared for his safety, but was worried how to sustain his family.

    The Sikh community has often been the target of racially-motivated attacks, Jasjit Singh, associate executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told India-West in an earlier story.

    “Cab drivers are on the front lines of the community and exposed to everyone on the demographic scale,” he said. “Turbans and beards are very visible symbols to people who may be misinformed.”

    Taxi drivers are discussing safety measures such as having distress lights on top of their cabs as well as partitions between the driver and the passenger. The Sacramento Taxi Cab Association and the Sikh temple in Roseville have set up funds to support Singh and his family.

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