Adam Purinton, who received a life sentence May 4 for the 2017 fatal shooting of Indian American engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, will likely plead guilty to federal hate crime charges later this month to avoid the death penalty.
On Feb. 22, 2017, at the height of post-election xenophobia as President Donald Trump took office, Purinton uttered racial slurs at Kuchibhotla and his friend Alok Madasani, both 32, as they enjoyed an after-work drink at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. He was asked to leave but eventually returned and yelled, “Get out of my country,” before firing at the men. A third man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he tried to intervene.
Purinton pleaded guilty in March to first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of attempted murder for wounding Madasani and Grillot. The 52-year-old man, who will not be eligible for parole for more than 77 years, still faces federal hate crime charges which could mean the death penalty.
According to courtroom minutes filed May 9, Purinton plans to plead guilty to the federal charges, as reported by KMUW, the Wichita, Kansas NPR-affiliated radio station.
A change of plea hearing is set for May 21, the day Purinton turns 53 years old, before U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia. Purinton had previously pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges.
The determination of whether to sentence Purinton to the death penalty would have been made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had yet to make a decision.
In related news, Sunayana Dumala, Kuchibhotla’s widow, released a video after Purinton was sentenced, describing her husband as an immigrant with "dreams for a better future.”
"Today's sentencing in the murder of my husband will not bring back my Srinu, but it sends a strong message that hate is never acceptable," Dumala said.
"I have shared Srinu's story to highlight the goodness in him with the hope that others will emulate his life and not that of the man who killed him,” she said.
In a statement submitted in court before the sentencing, Dumala said to Purinton: “My husband had a passion and dream to achieve something big in the aviation industry. He was working hard on large contracts for Garmin, those which have been awarded to the company. His hard work will now give jobs to more individuals and earn them their livelihood. Imagine how much more he could have achieved and contributed to the community if not for your anger and hatred.”
“My Srinu had never hurt anyone and only had love and respect for others, but he had to lose his life because of your hate. It is because of only those values that he had instilled in me that I am able to write this. I hope in the years that you must spend in the jail you will one day realize the magnitude of your mistake and work towards your penance.” (See earlier India-West story here.)