Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime Against Indian in U.S.
Jeffrey Burgess thought that Ankur Mehta was a Muslim when he hit him last year.
A car wash employee from Pennsylvania, Jeffrey Burgess, pleaded guilty on Nov. 28 in federal court for committing a hate crime in the United States last year. Burgess beat up an Indian man and made racial slurs under the influence of alcohol at a restaurant after mistaking him for an Arab.
Burgess, 55, pleaded guilty to the charge of violating the federal Hate Crime Prevention Act. He beat up Ankur Mehta at the Red Robin restaurant at South Hills Village in Bethel Park, Pittsburgh, on Nov. 22, 2016. The hate crime prevention act states that a person cannot be singled out or harmed based on their actual or perceived race, color or national origin.
Mehta had reportedly plugged in earphones and was working on his tablet when he was hit on the face and racially abused by Burgess, who was seated next to him. An eye witness later said that Burgess hit Mehta on the face with his elbow and fist a few times. He muttered a few racial slurs and said, “Things are different now” and “I don’t want you sitting next to me — you people.”
He was charged with ethnic intimidation, simple assault, harassment and public drunkenness but was indicted on a charge of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Burgess can face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or both.
Many supporters of Mehta went to the court in March 2017. “It’s what every day minorities in this country have to deal with,” Earnest Rajakone was reported as saying by Pittsburgh Action News 4.
Outside the court, Burgess blamed alcohol for his actions. “I’m not that kind of person,” he said, adding, “It happened and I’m remorseful about it.”
The incident took place only a week after the U.S. Presidential elections, which were marked with anti-Muslim rhetoric during the run-up. According to FBI statistics, hate crimes increased for the second consecutive year in 2016, registering a 4.6 per cent rise from 2015. Most incidents were single-bias occurrences.
The total number of hate crimes in 2016 was 6,121, compared with 5,850 in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation data revealed on Nov. 13 this year.
Those criminal incidents, the report said, were motivated by bias towards race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, or gender identity.