Attackers Also Sentenced to Perform 350 Hours of Community Service with the Sikh Coalition
(New York, New York) January 9, 2006 – In a dramatic hearing, five men convicted in the brutal bias-related assault on Rajinder Singh Khalsa received sentences ranging from five days in jail to two years in state prison. In addition to incarceration, three of the five attackers were sentenced to a total of 350 hours of community service with the Sikh Coalition.
According to trial testimony, between 5:00 and 5:45 p.m. on July 11, 2004, outside the Villa Russo Ristorante, a Richmond Hill, New York catering hall, the defendants Ryan Meehan and Nicholas Maceli, later joined by Victor Cosentino, Terence Lyons and Salvatore Macelli, taunted Rajinder Singh Khalsa, 50, and a companion, Gurcharan Singh, 51. The attackers mocked their turbans and demanded that they remove them from their heads. The two Maceli brothers and others then repeatedly punched Mr. Khalsa in the face, knocking him to the ground where they kicked him until he lost consciousness.
On December 5, 2005, after a five week bench trial, all five men were convicted of attacking Mr. Khalsa, though only two of the men were convicted of hate crime assault according to the Queens District Attorney's office.
The Sentencing Hearing
The sentencing hearing, held on December 22, 2005, featured victim impact statements by Rajinder Singh Khalsa and Gurcharan Singh. The hearing also included statements by the convicted attackers' attorneys and the attackers.
The hearing, attended by approximately 20 of the attackers' family members and 20 supporters within the Sikh community, began with Mr. Khalsa's victim impact statement. With his attackers sitting only a few feet away, Mr. Khalsa told the court that the injuries he suffered --- abrasions, multiple contusions, multiple fractures to the left orbital bone, and complex, obstructive fractures of the nose --- rendered him unable to work for months, forcing his son to forego college in order to financially support his family.
Despite the pain Mr. Khalsa continues to suffer as a result of the attack, he told the court that he harbored no anger against his attackers. He said that he is a "man of God" and that "all human beings are part of the same family." He requested that the attackers learn about Sikhism so that they understand that Sikhs are peaceful, God-loving people.
Gurcharan Singh, Mr. Khalsa's cousin who was with him during the attack, spoke next. Gurcharan Singh told the court that the men mocked his turban, ripped it off his head, and then beat Mr. Khalsa when Mr. Khalsa tried to protect him.
George Pharrugia, Assistant District Attorney and Supervisor of the District Attorney's Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau (GVHC), then addressed the court. In a forceful 30 minute statement, Pharrugia said that the attack on Mr. Khalsa was an attack on the whole Sikh community that had put Sikhs in Queens in fear of further attacks. He went over in detail the specific acts of each of the attackers and then requested the court to appropriately sentence the men to prison. In addition to jail time, Mr. Pharrugia also asked that the court require the attackers to perform community service with the Sikh Coalition. Mr. Pharrugia noted that supporters of the Sikh Coalition were present in the court and were willing to conduct a community service program for the attackers.
Judge Sentences Attackers and Requires Three Attackers to Perform 350 Hours of Community Service with the Sikh Coalition
Queens County District Attorney's OfficeSentencing News Video
: New York 1
I am happy these men will do community service with the Sikh Coalition. When they learn about Sikhs, they will see that we are a peaceful religion.... I am also very thankful to the Queens Country District Attorney's Office for their hard work to prosecute this case. They were with me every step of the way. "--- Rajinder Singh Khalsa on the sentencing of 5 men to jail terms and 350 hours of community service at the Sikh Coalition
"The defendants had gathered for a family celebration – the christening of an infant daughter. What should have been marked as an important and happy occasion has now instead been stained with hatred and violence, leaving in its wake an innocent man unconscious and seriously injured on the sidewalk. Crimes motivated by bias – particularly those involving violence – can never be tolerated. They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society."--- Queens District Attorney Richard Brown
After hearing the victims and prosecutor, the court heard statements from the attackers' attorneys and from each of the five attackers. Each attacker emotionally expressed regret for the incident.
With the court room on edge, Judge Seymore Rotker began reading his sentences. He sentenced all five men to sentences ranging from five days in jail to two years in state prison. Many of the attackers' family members cried in anguish as the attackers were led away in handcuffs.
Judge Rotker also sentenced three of the attackers to perform community service with the Sikh Coalition for a total of 350 hours. The community service will begin after the attackers complete their prison or jail terms.