USA Man Withdraws Guilty Plea In Cab Driver Beating

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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 | 12:11 am

In a surprising twist to a hate crime case, a California man who previously pleaded guilty of assaulting taxi driver Harbhajan Singh, told the court Friday that he plans to change his plea.

Pedro Antonio Ramirez told a Yolo County judge on April 1 that his attorney did not provide adequate counsel, and that he did not understand the plea deal. He was expected to receive 13 years in jail at the sentencing hearing.

His accomplice, Johnny Morales, who also pleaded guilty on March 7, was sentenced to 238 days in jail, in addition to the time he had already spent since his arrest.

“Everybody was surprised,” said Amar Shergill, Harbhajan Singh’s attorney. “Anytime it happens, and it does happen, it’s a surprise.”

Harbhajan Singh has no comment at this time, he said.

A public defender has been assigned to Ramirez to evaluate this claim, Shergill added. The case is set for another hearing on April 15. The court will decide then whether his claim has any validity. It may decide that the original plea agreement is valid and Ramirez should be sent to jail, or it may throw out the plea agreement and set a trial date.

“The attempt by Mr. Ramirez to back out of the plea agreement is a desperate tactic to avoid jail,” Shergill said. “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 (he) already agreed to.”

According to the West Sacramento Police Department report, on Nov. 28, 2010, at approximately 1:50 a.m., police responded to 685 Lighthouse Drive, regarding an abandoned 911 call. Upon arrival, officers found Harbhajan Singh, victim of an assault.

He had picked up the two accused and their wives in Sacramento and had driven them to West Sacramento when the two began assaulting him and demanded money.

But even after he handed them the money, Ramirez and Morales kept beating him while shouting explicatives and calling him Muslim and Osama bin Laden, said Jasjit Singh, associate director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, in a previous interview. Throughout the attack, Ramirez repeatedly threatened to kill Harbhajan Singh.

Harbhajan Singh suffered facial fractures, multiple facial lacerations that required stitches, eye injuries and bruising along his rib cage.

It was only through the intervention of Ramirez’s wife, one of the passengers, that Harbhajan Singh was able to escape, Shergill previously said.

Ramirez and Morales turned themselves in to the West Sacramento police on Dec. 1, after a five-day manhunt.

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