Two plead guilty to attack on Sikh taxi driver in US

March 9th, 2011 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan Singh Washington, March 9 (IANS) Two men accused of attacking a Sikh taxi driver in November have entered no-contest pleas in a California court, with one man admitting that his attack was a hate crime.

Pedro Ramirez, 42, of Natomas, pleaded to a felony assault charge in Yolo County Superior Court Monday and admitted that his attack on cab driver Harbhajan Singh in West Sacramento was a hate crime. He also admitted that he caused great bodily injury to the victim.

Johnny Morales Jr., 33, of West Sacramento, who had a lesser role in the attack, pleaded to felony assault, according to a Yolo County District Attorney’s Office news release.

As part of the plea agreement, Ramirez agreed to a 13-year prison sentence, and Morales will be placed on felony probation and will be sentenced to up to one year in county jail.

According to prosecution, Harbhajan Singh, wearing a traditional Sikh turban, was driving Ramirez, Morales and their wives home Nov 28 from Harlow’s Bar in Sacramento.

During the cab drive, Ramirez shouted racial epithets and accused Singh of being Muslim, officials said. Ramirez punched Singh in the face approximately 10 times, while Morales punched him from behind.

Singh suffered multiple cuts, a fracture to the orbital bone in his face and a spinal fracture. Ramirez also attempted to pull Singh from the taxi but was prevented by the cab driver’s seatbelt.

Ramirez’s wife stopped the beating by throwing her body between Singh and her husband. Morales and Ramirez then pulled Ramirez’s wife from vehicle, allowing Singh to escape in his cab.

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall, who took Ramirez and Morales’ pleas, is scheduled to sentence the men April 1.

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