A Florida man, who attempted to assault a Black man and run off the car the victim was driving with his family in a road rage incident, was on Wednesday convicted of a hate crime.
According to NBC News, Jordan Patrick Leahy was unaware the Black victim he tried to attack is a mixed martial artist. The man fought back and placed Leahy in a chokehold until authorities responded to the scene.
In a release, the Department of Justice said the 29-year-old White man’s conviction came after a federal jury determined he interfered with the Black man’s federally protected right to drive on the street.
The incident, which occurred in August last year, was labeled as a “racially motivated attack” by prosecutors. Authorities allege Leahy attempted to attack the Black victim as a result of his race and because he was driving on a public road.
The Black victim, identified as J.T., was with his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter when the incident occured. Trial evidence stated that Leahy hurled racial slurs at J.T. and made a hand gesture that suggested he was shooting at the Black victim’s car. That was after he stopped by J.T.’s car.
Authorities also said Leahy subsequently attempted to use his car to forcibly make J.T. drive off the road. Leahy later sideswiped J.T.’s car and drove off after he pursued the Black victim for more than a mile.
Authorities said Leahy confronted J.T. after the Black victim later caught up with him at a red light. The convicted man is said to have gotten out of his car, “stormed at J.T., and tried to assault him, again yelling racial slur.”
But J.T., who is a mixed martial artist, fought back and placed Leahy in a chokehold until he lost consciousness. J.T. also restrained Leahy until police responded to the scene, court documents stated.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said the White man made “numerous statements evidencing his bias motive” when officers responded to the scene. The White man allegedly said Black people should be made to stay “in their areas,” the release stated per NBC News.
The Department of Justice said Leahy faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. He was also remanded in custody pending his sentencing.
“Across America, families must be able to freely travel our public streets without fear of being attacked because of race,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said. “This verdict should send a strong message that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to prosecuting, to the fullest extent of the law, those who would use violence to enforce heinous racist beliefs.”
“No one should be targeted, threatened, intimidated or assaulted because of their race,” U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg added.
“The defendant in this case acted upon his bigoted beliefs and put an entire family and others’ safety at risk. We and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners will not tolerate such behaviors in our community.”