A man charged with hate crime in the US for brutally assaulting a Sikh bus driver and calling him a “terrorist” and “suicide bomber” has pleaded not guilty.
KC Tard, 34, who could face up to six years in prison if convicted, entered the plea yesterday in California to a felony battery count with a hate crime allegation, local media reported.
The Inglewood District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles on Tuesday filed the hate crime charges against Tard for brutally assaulting bus driver Balwinder Jit Singh and calling him a “terrorist” and “suicide bomber” during the attack last November.
Singh, who was in beard and traditional Sikh turban, had sustained serious injuries during the November 6 assault and was taken to a hospital with a disfigured face and infection in his eye that required weeks of recovery.
Tard also accused Singh of hijacking the bus while he was viciously assaulting him.
In January, advocacy group the Sikh Coalition’s legal team intervened and asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the case as a hate crime.
“I was attacked because of my Sikh religious appearance and I’m grateful that authorities re-examined my case and finally brought hate crime charges against the assailant,” Singh had said, adding that “acknowledging hatred when it occurs is the necessary first step for combating the problem.”
The rights group has said in recent months, as hateful political rhetoric has ramped up, it has witnessed a dramatic increase in hate crimes and backlash directed towards the Sikh community.
“The Sikh turban stands for justice and equality. It should be celebrated, not feared and we will continue to educate law enforcement agencies and Americans alike on the necessary steps required to combat the problem of hate in our country,” said the coalition’s Senior Staff Attorney, Gurjot Kaur.