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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Post-Trial Coverage of Rajinder Khalsa Assault Trial (continued)

Sikh Community Reacts To Hate Crime Acquittal In Beating Of Priest

NY1 News
Ruschell Boone

http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=10&aid=55473

December 07, 2005

Earlier this week five men were convicted in last year's beating of a Sikh man in Queens, but the men were acquitted of committing a hate crime. Many in the community feel they got off too easy. NY1 Queens reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report on the Sikh community's reaction.

Harpreet Singh Toor says he can't believe what he's reading in the newspaper: five men accused of brutally beating a Sikh priest in Richmond Hill last year were acquitted of the most serious charge of committing a hate crime. They were convicted of lesser charges.

"It's really surprising," he says.

Toor says the news comes as a shock to many at the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill because most of the members believe what happened to Rajinder Singh Khalsa was a hate crime.

Khalsa says the men attacked him in front of a restaurant while yelling give me your dirty curtain – meaning his turban, and get out of this country.

One day after the beating, Khalsa looked bruised and swollen. His nose was crushed and he lost his vision in one eye.

"It definitely looks like a hate crime, because – listening to the gentleman who got beaten up – there was not other reason which he could have been beaten up," says Toor. "He's not a guy who was looking for a fight, he's in his 50's."

A Queens judge questioned the credibility of some of the witnesses to the attack and tossed out the hate crime charge.

Two of the men were convicted on assault charges and are facing up to 7 years in prison. The other 3 were found guilty of harassment.

Many in the Richmond Hill Sikh Community say the punishment is too lenient.

"This sentence doesn't send a message properly, so they might do it again," says one community member. "If it would have been a harsh sentence it would leave a long impression in the community."

Many community members say they have been the target of hate since 9/11 even though Sikhs are not Muslims or Arabs.

Some say that even though they don't agree with the punishment they are hoping it will be a deterrent for future crimes.

The men are due back in court on December 22nd for sentencing.

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