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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

Assault on US Sikh: rights group seeks maximum punishment for attacker

PTI  New York, December 10, 2013
First Published: 23:22 IST(10/12/2013) | Last Updated: 23:23 IST(10/12/2013)

A civil advocacy group is demanding maximum punishment for a Seattle man who was indicted on hate crime charges for brutally assaulting a Sikh taxi driver last year, saying that such a punishment will send a clear message that racially-motivated crime is "unacceptable".

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Jamie Larson, 49, had pleaded guilty in June this year in the US district court in Seattle to a federal hate crime relating to a racially-motivated assault of the 50-year-old Sikh man who works as a taxi cab driver.

Larson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) Seattle chapter said it hoped to see the "maximum sentence possible" based on the "savage nature of this attack and on the disturbing pattern of similar attacks nationwide."

"A maximum sentence will send a clear message to the public that hate-motivated violence is unacceptable and will be punished," CAIR-Washington state chapter executive director Arsalan Bukhari said.

Bukhari noted that the cab driver was found barely conscious, had chunks of his beard pulled out, and with some of his teeth dangling after the attack.

He also said that a similar attack occurred in late 2007. The CAIR had called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the hate attack.

The indictment filed in April against Larson alleged that in October 2012, he assaulted the Sikh man, who hails from India, based upon his actual and perceived race, colour and national origin. Larson was arrested at the scene of the attack after a witness called '911'.

According to the documents filed in court, the Sikh cab driver was called to drive Larson to an address and when the taxi arrived at the destination, Larson attacked the driver, grabbing his beard, pulling him to the ground, punching and stomping on his head and body.

Larson uttered racial slurs and insults about the victim's perceived ancestry during the attack.
The Sikh man suffered damage to his back, shoulder and kidney. He was hospitalised for more than a week and had to undergo lengthy physical therapy.

Deputy assistant attorney general for the civil rights division Roy Austin had said that it was unacceptable that violent acts of hate committed because of someone's race and ethnicity continue to occur and the department would continue to use every available tool to identify and prosecute hate crimes whenever and wherever they occur.

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