Federal Way man pleads guilty to hate crime in cab driver beating

SEATTLE-- A Federal Way man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle Thursday to a federal hate crime relating to a racially-motivated assault of a 50-year-old Sikh man who works as a taxi cab driver.

Jamie Larson, 49, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act enacted by Congress in October 2009.

Larson was originally charged with malicious harrassment in King County Superior Court, but the matter was turned offer to federal prosecutors. The federal charge carries a longer possible sentence up to 10 years in prison.

The indictment alleges that on Oct. 17, 2012, Larson assaulted the victim, who is from India, based upon the victim's actual and perceived race, color and national origin, which included Middle Eastern and Arab descent. The defendant was arrested at the scene of the attack after a witness called 911.

According to the documents filed in court, the victim was called by Auburn Police to drive a drunk Larson to an address in Federal Way. When the taxi arrived at the destination, the driver got out of the taxi and Larson got out and 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 victim suffered damage to his back, shoulder and kidney. He was hospitalized for more than a week and has undergone lengthy physical therapy.

"Acts of hate, such as this one, hurt not only the victim, but tear at our social fabric. They cannot be tolerated in our community," said U.S. Attorney for the Western Distrcict of Washington Jenny A. Durkan. "The Shepard-Byrd Act is an important tool for holding defendants accountable."

The charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled in front of U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on Nov. 5, 2013.

The Shepard-Byrd law criminalizes acts of physical violence causing bodily injury motivated by any person's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.

The matter was investigated by the Seattle Division of the FBI. The Federal Way Police Department provided significant support in this prosecution. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce F. Miyake of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington and Trial Attorney Nicholas Durham of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.