On February 4, 2018, Rajinder Singh – an observant Sikh American husband and father of three – was waiting in the taxi driver line with an open window outside the Las Vegas Mirage Hotel when he was brutally attacked by a man he had never seen before.
Sheldon Williams approached Mr. Singh while he waited in the taxi line for a fare and beat him across the face and head, causing his turban to become disheveled, as well as a bloody nose, black eye, gashes and bruising. Mr. Singh was transported to the hospital, and the attacker was arrested.
The Sikh Coalition immediately responded to the attack, providing free legal support during court proceedings. For over eight months, we worked with Mr. Singh to make sure the Las Vegas Police Department and Clark County District Attorney’s Offices were properly investigating this incident, gathering the appropriate evidence and reviewing appropriate charges.
On September 25, 2018, the attacker was sentenced to three years probation with a suspended sentence of 364 days in jail in addition to a substance abuse evaluation, anger management classes, a curfew and no contact with the victim, after pleading guilty to the battery of Rajinder Singh.
In Mr. Singh’s impact statement, he called on his attacker to recognize the damage caused, detailing his injuries and the impact it had on the Sikh community. Mr. Singh’s statement was significant because Nevada does not have a stand-alone hate crime charge, so bias motivation can only be used as a penalty enhancement. In this case, and others, victim impact statements are the primary way in which a court hears about the bias elements of the offense in determining what is a just sentence.
“I am deeply grateful for the the Sikh Coalition’s critical time and free legal support. I hope this type of incident never happens to another Sikh, but if it does, it’s incredible to have the Sikh Coalition as an insurance policy for our community.”
WHY IT MATTERS
Violent crimes damage the lives of survivors, their families, and the communities in which they live. Hate crimes, in particular, can have deep, lasting effects on survivors and targeted communities. In order to develop effective policy solutions to combat hate crimes, policymakers must first understand the scope of the problem. Thus, when Sikhs are targeted because of hate, it is imperative that law enforcement authorities document these attacks as hate crimes and prosecutors pursue hate crime charges. This designation, while not formally sentenced in Rajinder’s case, is the first step towards systemic change.