A man from Katy, Texas, has entered a guilty plea to a federal hate crime related to the racially-motivated assault of an 81-year-old African-American man, announced Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.
Conrad Alvin Barrett, 29, was charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. On Nov. 24, 2013, he attacked the elderly African-American man because of the man’s race and color in what Barrett called a “knockout.”
At the hearing today, evidence revealed that Barrett recorded himself on his cell phone attacking the African-American man. In the recording, Barrett questions whether there would be national attention if he attacked a person of color. Barrett also claimed he would not hit “defenseless people” just moments before punching the elderly man in the face and with such force that the victim immediately fell to the ground. Barrett then laughed and said “knockout,” as he ran to his vehicle and fled. The victim suffered two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days as a result of the attack.
“This was a senseless and heinous act of violence that was committed simply because the victim was African American,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to vindicate the rights of victims of violent crimes.”
“The defendant’s admissions today resolve any question as to his guilt and are consistent with what we had planned to present at trial,” said U.S. Attorney Magidson. “We do not take criminal civil rights violations lightly and are now prepared to move forward at sentencing to fully advocate for the appropriate punishment in this case.”
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed on Oct. 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama six days later. Shepard was a gay student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming. Byrd was an African-American man who was tied to a truck by two white supremacists, dragged behind it and decapitated in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller of the Southern District of Texas accepted Barrett’s plea today and has set sentencing for September 18, 2015. At that time, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI in cooperation with the Fulshear, Texas, and Katy Police Departments as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration. Civil Rights Division Trial Attorneys Saeed Mody and Olimpia Michel are prosecuting the case along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo of the Southern District of Texas, in cooperation with District Attorney John Healey of Ft. Bend County, Texas.