Two suspects in the beating of a Sikh taxi driver in West Sacramento have pled guilty – with one admitting to a “hate crime,” reports the office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig. According to the D.A.:
42-year old Pedro Ramirez of Natomas pled to a felony assault charge and admitted the Nov. 28 attack was a “hate crime, agreeing to a 13-year prison sentence. 33-year old Johnny Morales, Jr., of West Sacramento “played a lesser role in the attack” and pled to felony assault. He will be placed on felony probation and will be sentenced to up to a year in county jail.
Taxi driver Harbhajan Singh was taking the defendants and their wives home from Harlow’s, a nightspot in Sacramento, early in the morning of Nov. 28. Singh was wearing the traditional Sikh turban and beard. During the drive, Ramirez used racial slurs and accused Singh of being a Muslim. After being driven to Lighthouse Drive, Ramirez and Morales both punched Singh in the face and head a number of times – fracturing his spine and a bone in his face, and causing lacerations. Ramirez also tried to pull the seat-belted victim from the car.
Ramirez’s wife stopped the beating by putting herself between her husband and Singh. The two men pulled her from the car, and Singh drove away.
West Sacramento police said they initially received a report that the crime was a robbery, but later re-interviewed Singh and joined federal authorities in investigating it as a hate crime.
Singh’s attorney, Amar Shergill, released the following statement after the plea deals:
“Mr. Singh is pleased that his assailants have admitted their crimes and will serve an appropriate sentence. He continues to have physical and mental symptoms related to the assault, however, he looks forward to returning to work and supporting his family. In light of the recent shooting of two elderly Sikh men in Elk Grove, the Sikh community takes some solace in the fact that law enforcement authorities aggressively prosecute these crimes and that the greater community has been so supportive.”