PARSIPPANY, New Jersey — A New Jersey man allegedly called a Sikh American a terrorist Feb. 20 and told him to go back to his own country.
Steven Laverty, 20, of Morris Plains, New Jersey, has been charged with fourth degree bias intimidation, harassment for striking or offensive touching, and harassment for communication in a manner to cause alarm to the victim, who has not been named. Laverty has also been charged with possession and being under the influence of controlled dangerous substances.
When the Indian American victim tried to use his phone to take photos of the suspect’s license plate, Laverty allegedly punched him and attempted to take his phone. The victim was able to avert the blow.
The evening exchange occurred at an Exxon gas station in Parsippany. The victim called police after Laverty left the scene in a 2014 Toyota Corolla.
Assistant Prosecutor Justin Tellone told Morris County Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz that Laverty called the man "a terrorist, a Muslim, and that he should go back to his own country,” according to the Daily Record.
"Of course, the victim is not Muslim, he is Sikh," Tellone said.
A police dispatcher who took a call that same evening at 10:28 p.m., about a suspicious vehicle at a nearby 7-Eleven, was able to connect that vehicle to the Exxon station incident, according to the Daily Record.
Police officers were able to stop Laverty as he attempted to leave the 7-Eleven parking lot. Following a brief investigation at the scene, Laverty and Antony Wyzga, 23, of Lake Hiawatha, were arrested and charged with drug possession.
Further investigation led to the additional charges against Laverty.
Laverty and Wyzga are in custody at the Morris County Correctional Facility. Laverty made his first appearance in court Feb. 26. Wyzga was not involved in the attack on the Sikh American.
Minkowitz ruled he should be detained because he was a danger to himself. The judge noted the suspect’s long history of drug abuse.
Laverty's history includes multiple juvenile arrests and, at the time of his latest arrest, was on conditional release for a June 2017 crime. He has been arrested three times since then on drug-related disorderly person charges, and had completed a rehabilitation program just two weeks before the Feb. 20 incident, according to the Daily Record.