A Federal Way man was sentenced Tuesday to 40 months in federal prison for viciously beating a Sikh cabdriver last year amid a profanity-laced racist rant about Muslims.
Jamie Larson, 50, originally was charged with malicious harassment in King County Superior Court, but the case was turned over to federal prosecutors in March because the federal hate-crime law carried a longer possible sentence of up to 10 years.
“I want to apologize to (the victim) and his family,” Larson told U.S. District Judge John Coughenour during his sentencing. “I am ashamed of what I did. I hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
Larson was described by his attorney, federal defender Kyena Stephens, as a blackout-binge alcoholic who had been in a treatment center and sober for several months until he got into a fight with his girlfriend. He started drinking and said he recalled nothing of the Oct. 17, 2012, incident.
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According to court documents, Larson was drunk and lying in bushes outside a Fred Meyer store in Auburn when a passer-by called police. Officers and firefighters responded, determined Larson was drunk but coherent, and called him a cab if he agreed to go home.
The cabdriver arrived and took Larson to the Federal Way address he was given, but when they arrived, Larson said he didn’t live there. The cabbie went to the front door to talk to the homeowner — the mother of Larson’s girlfriend — when Larson came up behind him and began beating him.
While hitting, kicking and stomping the cabbie, Larson made a number of disparaging and racist remarks about Islam and Muslims.
The driver is an immigrant from India and a practicing Sikh, not a Muslim.
After the attack, he was hospitalized eight days with a concussion and other injuries, according to prosecutors. The driver couldn’t work for two months and required months of physical therapy because of his injuries.
Federal prosecutors pointed out that Larson has a long history of alcohol-fueled violence, sexually assaulting a neighbor in 2008 and beating an ambulance driver in 2009 while drunk.
Coughenour, the judge, called Larson’s comments among “the most disgusting, ugly and racist language that I have heard in 30 years on the bench.”
The judge said the 40-month sentence sends a “message to the community that this kind of conduct is unacceptable.”
The sentencing was attended by local officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who praised the sentence. CAIR was involved because the assault was a perceived attack on Islam, even if the driver was not of that faith. Indeed, Arsalan Bukhari, the executive director of the Seattle chapter of CAIR, said the organization had not spoken with the victim of Larson’s attack.
“We believe the sentence carries a strong message that these sorts of attack will be met with the full force of the law,” he said.
Mike Carter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-3706