By Cathy Locke
Two men accused of attacking a Sikh taxi driver in November entered no-contest pleas today in Yolo County Superior Court, with one man admitting that his attack was a hate crime.
Pedro Ramirez, 42, of Natomas, pleaded to a felony assault charge and admitted that his attack on cab driver Harbhajan Singh in West Sacramento was a hate crime, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release. He also admitted that he caused great bodily injury to the victim.
Johnny Morales Jr., 33, of West Sacramento, who had a lesser role in the attack, pleaded to felony assault.
As part of the plea agreement, Ramirez agreed to a 13-year prison sentence, and Morales will be placed on felony probation and will be sentenced to up to one year in county jail.
Harbhajan Singh, wearing a traditional Sikh turban and beard, was driving Ramirez, Morales and their wives home Nov. 28 from Harlow's Bar in Sacramento. During the cab drive, Ramirez shouted racial epithets and accused Mr. Singh of being Muslim, officials said. Ramirez punched Singh in the face approximately 10 times, while Morales punched him from behind.
Singh suffered multiple cuts, a fracture to the orbital bone in his face and a spinal fracture.
Ramirez also attempted to pull Singh from the taxi but was prevented by the cab driver's seatbelt.
Ramirez's wife stopped the beating by throwing her body between Singh and her husband. Morales and Ramirez then pulled Ramirez's wife from vehicle, allowing Singh to escape in his cab.
"Mr. Singh is pleased that his assailants have admitted their crimes and will serve an appropriate sentence," Amar Shergill, Singh's attorney, said in a written statement.
Shergill said Singh continues to suffer physical and mental effects of the assault but looks forward to returning to work and supporting his family.
Yolo County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall, who took Ramirez and Morales' pleas, is scheduled to sentence the men April 1.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.