Felony assault and hate crime charges were filed Oct. 13 against two of the suspects accused of severely beating a Sikh American man last month in Richmond, Calif.
Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Simon O’Connell told India-West that two counts of felony assault – assault by force and assault with a deadly weapon – along with a hate crime enhancement had been filed against Chase Little, 31, and Colton Leblanc, 24, both of Texas. Leblanc and Little are accused of attacking Maan Singh Khalsa, an Indian American IT specialist working for the Social Security Administration, who lives in Richmond. The pair are accused of throwing a beer can at him while he was driving, then accosting him at a subsequent traffic stop, severely beating him and cutting off a fistful of his religiously-mandated long hair. The two are also accused of knifing Khalsa’s hand so severely that the top digit of his pinky finger will have to be amputated.
Khalsa suffered much bruising and lacerations to his face, hand, teeth and eyes.
Little was arrested on the night of the attack Sept. 25, and posted bail shortly after. His arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 21.
Leblanc was not arrested on the night of the attack, but was subsequently found to be a co-participant in the incident. In the week since the charges were filed, Leblanc has not been arrested; a warrant with a bail of $135,000 has been set for his arrest. The whereabouts of Leblanc are currently unknown, according to O’Connell, who added that a national warrant has been placed on Leblanc so that he could be arrested anywhere in the country.
Little is free on bail of an unspecified amount. O’Connell said he was confident that the suspect would not jump bail before his arraignment next month.
If convicted, Leblanc and Little could face a minimum sentence of probation or a maximum sentence of 11 years in state prison. O’Connell said it was unlikely that either of the suspects would receive the maximum sentence, as they have no prior criminal history or arrests.
A third person, Dustin Albarado, who was arrested on the night of the incident and posted bail, was not charged. Albarado, of Louisiana, told police officers that he and two others in the suspects’ car had driven away when the attack began. Albarado said he came back to find his friends. O’Connell told India-West that Albarado said he never got out of the car during the attack.
Five men who all worked at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond were in the suspects’ car on the night of the attack. Little and Albarado have since been terminated from their jobs, media reports said.
Khalsa told India-West he wants all of the men charged, especially the driver, who stopped the car so that the attack could occur.
Three men attacked him, insisted Khalsa, who said he still suffers from headaches, cannot sleep and is losing his memory and hearing. The 40-year-old is scheduled for surgery on his right pinky finger Oct. 21.
The victim recently returned to work, three weeks after the attack. He said he has had to retrain himself on how to type with his injured hands, and continues to take Vicodin and ibuprofen for his pain plus antibiotics for infection.
“All five should be charged with a hate crime,” said Khalsa. “They did not drive away until I drove off and they did nothing to stop them from hitting me. They are equally guilty,” he said.
Khalsa said he has fears of being attacked again and goes out very little. “It has changed my whole view of life,” he said.
“These hate crime charges ensure that the bias-based nature of the assault on Mr. Khalsa will be addressed during the prosecution,” said Sikh Coalition legal director Harsimran Kaur in a statement.
“The purpose of prosecuting bias-motivated assaults as hate crimes is not to impose harsher penalties. Instead, the purpose is to mitigate hatred in our society and ensure that we are all free to safely pursue the American dream regardless of our race, ethnicity, or religion,” she said.
“I trusted the district attorney's office to do the right thing and they came through,'' said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt in a statement. “We do not condone this in Richmond and we don't condone it in America.''
(This story, originally published Oct. 15, was updated Oct. 19.)