Verdict in Sikh Beating Case Shows Complications with US Hate Crime Law

December 17, 2005

Source: Sikh News Sentinel/Newsday

On December 17, 2005 Newsday reported, "It was a verbal altercation that turned physical - an ugly attack by five white men on a pair of Sikhs outside a Queens restaurant last year. The attackers made taunts about the men's turbans, and left one of them unconscious with multiple facial fractures. But a Queens judge ruled earlier this month that while bias played a role, the entire incident didn't qualify as a hate crime. Two of the defendants were convicted under the hate crime law, while two others were acquitted on those charges but convicted on others. The case illustrated what is complicated about prosecuting cases under the state's hate crime law, which increases penalties for offenses committed with bias. Prosecutors must prove a defendant's motivation behind an act, and that a crime was committed or a victim chosen because of bias against a particular group... The two men charged with the actual physical beating, brothers Salvatore and Nicolas Maceli, were acquitted on the hate crime charges and convicted of second-degree assault... Salvatore Maceli's attorney, Joseph Corozzo, said that while his client acknowledged hitting Khalsa, it wasn't a hate crime. Maceli... simply came to the aid of his companions, the lawyer said... Khalsa and his supporters disagree, saying racial and religious epithets were heard during the entire incident, and that the men hitting him were acting in support of those who had taunted him about his turban."