These are working Americans on a budget and have thirteen children between the three of them. If they go to prison, their families are at risk of becoming homeless. They need help hiring aggressive attorneys to defend them.
This incident took place in the part of town, called “Little Mogadishu” at the Zappy Pizza shop just eight days before the election. The three defendants say that one of them was exercising his free speech in expressing support for America and Donald Trump, while denouncing Islam. One of four Muslims in the restaurant, Mustafa, was offended and used an expletive against Trump. He advanced on one of the Americans in a threatening way. He got in his face, within six inches. Mustafa was punched once in the forehead in self-defense. All three men are now charged with a felony hate crime as accomplices.
The alleged “victim” suffered only minor injury. There were no bleeding wounds or broken bones. The initial police report stated that he had minor abrasions on his forehead and a bruise on the inside of one of his arms. A photo of him after the incident was displayed in court at a hearing.
The news reports were sensational, politically-biased and exaggerated, see the video description for links. They claimed that the victim had been hit over the head with a chair and beaten down with brass knuckles. The witness testimony did not support either of these accusations. The police never recovered any brass knuckles. The victim’s minor wounds were not consistent with the use of brass knuckles, which can cause major flesh damage and fracture bones.
The area is called Little Mogadishu, because about thirty thousand mostly Muslim refugees from East Africa have been resettled in the area. Mustafa happens to be the son of the most influential leader of these refugees, who represents a powerful voting block. His name is Ahmed Sahid, the Founder and CEO of Somali Family Service, whose office is only about a quarter mile from Zappy Pizza.
Because Mustafa’s father is politically influential and the incident occurred in the politically charged atmosphere just before the election, this prosecution is driven by politics. They didn’t go into the shop intending to commit a hate crime, but just to pick up a pizza to take to Sean’s home just around the corner. They didn’t run or hide, because they had not done anything wrong. The police found them in the front yard outside the house. They didn’t realize that Sharia law was in effect in Little Mogadishu, rather than the Bill of Rights.
In order to fit the requirements of a hate crime, there has to be an ordinary, underlying crime, such as assault, battery or vandalism, in this case, which is motivated by hatred or intolerance. In the preliminary hearing evidence against the men was presented by the prosecution. The judge (Valentino) said that he had doubts that this case satisfied the requirements for a hate crime.
One of the dependents said some things, which offended a Muslim, Mustafa. There was some variation in the testimony of the witnesses, but there was agreement that Mustafa rose from a chair and approached the men, getting in the face of one of them. The man punched him in self-defense. A scuffle ensued.
Punching someone, in this case a Muslim, in self defense, because he got upset that Islam had been insulted is not a crime. If there is no underlying crime, it cannot be a hate crime. It is just free speech.
The judge in the preliminary hearing also said that he did not think the defendants planned this. He just thought they went in to the restaurant to pick of a pizza and this is what happened.
There was only a preliminary trial, when only the prosecutor called witnesses. The attorney’s of the defendants could cross examine, but no defense was presented as is usunally the case in preliminary trials.
The three defendants ended up taking a plea bargain, because they did not want to take the risk of being convicted of a felony. This is also commonly the case, I believe. When someone is accused of a hate crime, they generally do not end up presenting a defense due to the risk of going to trial. Just being accused of a hate crime, may tend to prejudice the jury against the defendent. People are not generally aware how easy it is to be charged with a hate crime, if they say the wrong thing and get into a minor altercation with a member of a so-called protected class.