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California Hate Crime Against Sikh Man Yields Prison Terms For Assailants

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California Hate Crime Against Sikh Man Yields Prison Terms For Assailants

Maan Singh Khalsa

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.
by A.C. Thompson 

Wearing a slightly baggy suit, a maroon turban wrapped around his head, Maan Singh Khalsa looked across the courtroom at Judge Patricia Scanlon and wiggled his right hand.

The damage was obvious: Most of Khalsa’s pinky finger was missing.

“My attackers hit me with their fists, knocked off my turban, and yelled, ‘Cut his fucking hair.’ They yanked my hair through the window and used a knife to saw parts of it off. In the course of the attack, as I tried to protect my hair and my head, my right finger was stabbed, and eventually required amputation.”

Khalsa, an Indian immigrant and adherent of the Sikh faith, spoke softly and calmly during the hearing on Thursday. But with those words he was trying to close the book on a hate crime case that gained national attention last fall.

Khalsa was attacked last September on a roadway in Richmond, California, a tough oil refinery town perched on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Now, on the left side of the courtroom, confined to a cage made of glass and black steel, stood Khalsa’s assailants, Colton Tye Leblanc, 25, and Chase Little, 31.

The episode started on the night of Sept. 25, 2016, when LeBlanc, Little and three other men working for an oil services company pulled up to a stoplight in a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Khalsa was driving a car in the next lane over. Somebody in the truck hurled a beer can at him. Soon the situation turned violent, with LeBlanc and Little, both white men, punching Khalsa, an IT specialist for the Social Security Administration, through his car window.

Then the knife came out.

“Observant Sikhs like me keep our hair unshorn in order to live in harmony with the will of God. Cutting a Sikh’s hair is one of the most humiliating things anyone can do a Sikh,” Khalsa told the court.

Before the assault, he said, “I was so carefree. I considered myself an American like everyone else. I had never worried about being the victim of prejudice. I enjoyed my life fully.”

The violence has been transformative. “When the traffic light turned green I was able to drive away from the attackers, but my life is forever changed,” said Khalsa. Now, he said, “It is difficult for me to go out in public.”

Khalsa said he has suffered short-term memory lapses, depression, bouts of anxiety. He said he has trouble typing and using his right hand in general.

After Khalsa shared his story with the court, LeBlanc and Little pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and hate crimes charges. Neither man offered an apology.

Scanlon handed each of them a three-year state prison term, with any restitution payments to be discussed at a later court hearing. It was a negotiated outcome, a deal struck by defense attorneys and County Prosecutor Simon O’Connell.

Back in November, LeBlanc’s attorney, Joseph Tully, dismissed the notion that his client targeted Khalsa due to Khalsa’s ethnicity or religion. “This was simply a fight over a beer can at a stoplight which can’t be elevated to a hate crime under any circumstance,” he said at the time.

Now, even as LeBlanc and Little prepared for an extended stay in the state penal system, Tully remained defiant, claiming to have amassed evidence essentially clearing his client and portraying Khalsa not as a victim but an aggressor, who had used his car as a weapon at some point in the altercation.

“I’ve laughed every time I’ve heard that,” responded O’Connell, the prosecutor. “The defense kept saying they were going to present all this exonerating evidence, but then they turned around and quite readily agreed to plead to the charges.”

Though Khalsa “might have panicked” while behind the wheel, he didn’t do anything malicious, said O’Connell.

For O’Connell, the conviction of LeBlanc and Little represented a significant victory.

Hate crime cases are especially challenging for prosecutors, who must prove not just that a defendant has committed a crime, but that he or she was motivated by animus towards the victim’s race, religion, nationality or other identity characteristic. In 2015, California prosecutors secured convictions on hate crimes charges in less than 50 percent of the cases they filed, according to figures compiled by the California Department of Justice. O’Connell’s colleagues in the Contra Costa district attorney’s office dropped hate crimes charges in another high-profile case, the murder of Will Sims, an African-American musician who was beaten and shot to death in November 2016 after a dispute in a bar.

For Khalsa, the morning in court was an opportunity to live out the principles of his faith.

At one point he looked directly at his assailants:

“As a Sikh, I believe that all of us are one human family, and that we must treat everyone as equals regardless of our many differences. Mr. Little and Mr. LeBlanc, I hope that one day you will come to share this view. I still consider you my brothers, and I hope that you will learn about me and my community, and one day consider me your brother, too.”

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  1. dbtheonly May 22, 2017

    It is funny, though funny isn’t the right word, how Sihks get confused with Muslims.

    Mindless hate plus appalling ignorance.

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

      Mindless hate and appalling ignorance negate clarity. Both contribute to a blindness of the soul despite what the outer eye may see or not see on the surface.

      1. dbtheonly May 22, 2017

        Well yes, but if one is going out to terrorize Muslims, one ought to be sure the person one is terrorizing is, in fact, Muslim,

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

          But the safest thing for all concerned, under any circumstance, is to avoid terrorizing anyone—period. N’est ce pas?

          1. dbtheonly May 22, 2017

            You speak French as well. You are a man of many talents. And that may be why Alain attacks you so.

            Of course not terrorizing people is the preferred solution, but that’s rather past tense here. The decision to terrorize was made.

            It’s similar to the person arrested for painting anti-Semitic graffiti in the cemetery. Regrettably he’d turned right rather than left and was defacing the Russian Orthodox graves. The Jewish cemetery was on the other side of the street. One does not condone the action; but shakes one’s head at the ignorance on top of the evil design.

          2. Aaron speak french? You deduce this from three words?
            And thus you infer that I am jealous! Sure, mate! Brilliant indeed..

            English is French misspelled and mispronounced, for 90% of the more than 7 letter long words, however.
            Continuez donc à parler français mes amis. Cela vous rend intelligent! A votre santé.

          3. dbtheonly May 23, 2017

            English is a Germanic language with some French influences from1066 onward.

            But, as the Flemish said so succinctly at the Battle of Sluys, “I don’t speak French.”

          4. From 1066, the French influence was immense as stated.
            For 200 years no less.

            Most Flemish speak French today and spoke it in 1914-18.

            In bombed battlefields the bugle does the talking.

            The nationalists have their own propaganda leaflets too.
            Believers always follow that herd.

        2. plc97477 May 23, 2017

          Too much work for those lazy cowards.

  2. For once we agree.

    People do not know religions and their expressions and their many gods.

    A total pity… Ignorance is bliss!

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

      Your ignorance is monumental, and you of all people shouldn’t utter a word about anything. And your post betrays the savagery of your personality, its cold and callous features. And did your mom teach you to be this way, Alain.
      No one is in agreement with anything you say, save for that equally ignorant person who thinks he’s an informed voter.

      And yes—Ignorance for you is bliss.

      1. Mooster75 May 22, 2017

        Wow. I assume you two have a history…

        1. The OP is a monumental sack of crap who claims that poor Assad is a misunderstood and persecuted innocent, who barely even bombed all those hospitals full of kids.

          1. dbtheonly May 22, 2017

            The French were not nearly as opposed to American warmongers in 1944.

          2. They opposed the warmongers in 1940 when Hitler got the support of 1.500 USA industrialists such as Henry Ford (Nazi Cross in 1938). This provoked WWII.
            In 1944 the GI’s were liberators, not warmongers! Read history properly.

          3. dbtheonly May 23, 2017

            And look what that got them.

            4 years of Petain

          4. So? What point are you trying to make?
            Luckily there was more than one America then.
            The warmongers pro Hitler and the Liberators.
            We remember these courageous men and don’t forget the inhumane ones who are still around ready to take us back in the middle-ages ! The philosopher killers.

          5. dbtheonly May 23, 2017

            Merely your rank hypocrisy.

            You love dictators like Assad. All their terror is fake news. Until those dictators hit your family.

            You hate American warmongers. Until those warmongers liberate your Grandparents. All of a sudden they’re now liberators.

            You are living proof of living in a bubble of your own construction.

          6. You visibly ignore the french word : NUANCE.
            Sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)
            Warmongers and liberators coexist in the same population.
            Today I am looking for Liberators and have a hard time finding them. They are usually intelligent.
            That may be the reason they are so hard to find these days.

          7. dbtheonly May 23, 2017


            Those are your Uncles’ trophy wives.

          8. Duh! Guffaw! American finesse?

          9. dbtheonly May 23, 2017

            Nah, just my silly jokes.

          10. Your American propaganda is vomiting fake news .

            Assad did not kill children.
            The US killed more than a million Iraqis since 2003.

          11. Yes yes the guy WHO LITERALLY HAS DEATH-CAMPS FOR HIS POLITICAL ENEMIES is so pure he would never ever target schools and hospitals full of children, aside from all the times he has.

            You are not a person.

          12. The death camp you are talking about is pure US propaganda invention.
            It does not exist. The “camp” pictures shown on WaPo and the like is totally disaffected and abandoned in semi desert country.
            Your propaganda is dumb and you are dumbeszt to gulp all that up.
            You are a warmonger and an invader.

        2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

          Yes, we do. Alain appeared out of nowhere several months ago, with a most disrespectful response to a comment I made to an article. Rather than make a rational assessment of my response with a carefully reasoned disagreement with my reflections, he chose a childish antic of attacking me personally and with a pompous and arrogant manner. He has responded similarly to others, including the women who post here. And when he or anyone denigrates the women here, then that crosses my line.

          Ordinarily I would dismiss the ranting and ill-behavior of someone who doesn’t know any better, but Alain knows full well what he’s doing.

          1. 1st compliment from Torquemada yet!

        3. Freedom of thought against the new Torquemada Aaron, a self proclaimed religious bigot trying to look nice and friendly!
          For now!
          An old battle.
          Darkness usually wins against Enlightenment but bright spirits have their time between gallows.
          You can choose sides. Clearly.

      2. The level of the people here is the lowest I have ever seen.

        1. FireBaron May 23, 2017

          Then leave.

    2. You cheerlead on Assad when he murders children.

      You are a monster.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

        That he is. Some unearthly force has distorted Alain’s soul, and it shows in his remarks.

        1. Your American propaganda is vomiting fake news .

          Assad did not kill children.
          The US killed more than a million Iraqis since 2003.

          You are the monsters . Don’t turn things upside down as usual. You are the liars & manipulators.

          1. FireBaron May 23, 2017

            Typical conservative playbook. Instead of offering a defense you offer a counter to distract the attention. Yea, we all know US troops were involved in the death of numerous Iraqis, but no where near the 1,000,000 you claim. Assad is a murderer as was his father before him. Both hold precariously to power through the assistance of Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.

          2. Half a million suits you better? Do you have the exact figure?
            Do you contest it?
            I personally do not know the real number nor those of other of your operations throughout the world.
            Coming to Syria.
            Assad Bachar was invited in France on national day parade 14 th july 2008.
            France (Sarlozy), vassal to the USA, proposed a deal to get a gazoduc and oléoduc through Syria.
            Assad refused wanting to keep his freedom.
            Remember what it is?
            Yes he had business arrangements with Russia, your favorite enemy to keep MIC alive…
            From then the middle east ophthalmologist nice guy was demonized brutally and became a “monster” killing his own people especially children of course. Full Pathos ahead.
            You are good at that.
            False flags and fakes were produced, the ISIS Golem was created and used against him and here and there to this day.
            The democratically elected leader is still resisting this imposture, its horrible propaganda machine with crisis actors (same children used multiple times with make up and gore) and photo-shopped “facts”.
            Not to mention illegal acts of war according to International Law which you probably think should not apply to you.
            And you gobbled all of it. (Goebbels style)! Predictable.

            You hold precariously to power through your formidable Fire Power you spend 20% of your Federal Budget to maintain scarily. Proud bully? Probably. Morally detestable.

            In any scale you need the ZERO level. You are it. Cheers.

          3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 23, 2017

            Alain, I find you again spouting childish nonsense. The world is fighting a battle on at least two fronts: Religious fanatics like Assad and his Russian associates; and then there is the Nihilist Brigade, with you as a commanding Knave-in-Chief. But you like other detritus of human society will be no more.

          4. You are a religious fanatic Aaron.
            Assad is an Alawite stemming from Shiisme which is a minority in Sunni Syria. (less than 15% Alawite in Syria).
            He cannot thus possibly be a religious fanatic and is basically privately an atheist even though he will not admit it anymore!
            Guffaw. He will pass as even more monstrous to you, no doubt.
            I am not a nihilist I am a FREE MAN and that scares you white!
            You are a weak menacing whatever you said about me…
            Shame on you!

          5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 23, 2017

            Alain, you are a nihilist fanatic. Your obsession with forcing your philosophy of “nothingness” is one monumental joke and a waste of what precious moments of life still remain for your desiccated carcass. It would be best to try and regain what you’ve squandered and cast to the winds of desperation and despair.

    3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

      Alain, let me reiterate what someone else posted about you—You are a monster.
      It’s as simple as that. But since you have no moral compass(you’ve indicated as much before), then you can’t understand the enormity of the egregious nature of your deformed personality.
      Again, I must remind you that your posts are an affront to your mother, and you insist publicly to humiliate and despoil her memory by your shameful behavior.
      Until I see a noticeable improvement in your depraved nature, I will continue to rebuke you on behalf of your mother. Someone has to be respectful of her since you won’t. So I’ll do it for you, and I will continue to chastise you at every opportunity, in memory of her and my concern for her welfare, whether she is still living in this realm, or on her behalf as she progresses in the Next World.


  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 22, 2017

    As stated on many occasions by me, and by others, conservatism is a satanic ideology which has the ability to transform those who claim to be religious, like the attackers of this man, making of them the essence of a satanic nature to their very core.
    This isn’t a subjective assessment by me, but one based on the logic as inherent in all the Religions—Religions which all had their inspiration by virtue of a linkage with the Creator. And no matter the name of the Religion or the outer expressions of said Religion, the Essence of the Religions is the same. That they differ in name and characteristics is due to the Age in which they were revealed, the social events of the peoples of that Age, and is fashioned to align with the cultural norms of the community. To disparage any one of the Religions, therefore, is to disparage them all; an attack on any member of any Religion is an attack on one’s own Religion, and an attack against the Messenger who revealed the Religion.

    To back up what I say, it is instructive that we reread and reflect on Baha’u’llah’s assertion concerning this “Oneness” of Religion:

    “Beware, O believers in the Unity of God, lest ye be tempted to make any distinction between any of the Manifestations of His Cause, or to discriminate against the signs that have accompanied and proclaimed their Revelation. This indeed is the true meaning of Divine Unity, if ye be of them that apprehend and believe this truth. Be ye assured, moreover, that the works and acts of each and every one of these Manifestations of God, nay whatever pertaineth unto them, and whatsoever they may manifest in the future, are all ordained by God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. Whoso maketh the slightest possible difference between their persons, their words, their messages, their acts and manners, hath indeed disbelieved in God, hath repudiated His signs, and betrayed the Cause of His Messengers.”

    From the above, any sensible person(Alain—you’re excluded from this group, so it doesn’t pertain to you) would see that the attackers have disbelieved in God, repudiated His signs, and betrayed the Cause of Jesus and all the other Messengers.
    Which led them to attack with a bestial fury which Christianity never condoned in the least.

    This then, regrettably, is the state of the Institution of Christianity in America, in so many sectors of the country.

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  4. dpaano May 23, 2017

    It’s pretty bad when a couple of rednecks don’t know the difference between a Sikh and (most likely) what they thought was a Muslim. And, it’s also pretty sad when they feel that they are so superior that they have the right to attack someone who has a different religion or belief! I’d like to take both of them over my knee and beat the crap out of them!!! It just infuriates me to read stories like these! Would they do the same to a Jewish person wearing a yarmulke?


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