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Mar-21-2008 17:08printcomments

Oregon Fails to Indict Turban Attackers with a Hate Crime

"The turban is a priceless article of faith for Sikhs. Sikhs throughout history have chosen death over removing their turbans since it encapsulates a Sikh's commitment to their faith." - Sikh Coalition

The Douglas County Oregon Court in Roseburg
The Douglas County Oregon Court in Roseburg
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(ROSEBERG, Ore.) - Three Oregon men who attacked a Sikh trucker and ripped a turban off his head, will not be charged with a hate crime. A Douglas County, Oregon grand jury declined to indict three men. The Sikh Coalition calls the matter disappointing.

The Coalition says they learned yesterday that the grand jury instead chose to indict the men on the lesser charges of harassment and theft in the third degree.

"Burning a cross on an African American's lawn is not a mere act of vandalism, and stealing a Sikh's turban is not a misdemeanor theft. They are both hate crimes," said Amardeep Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition.

On August 5th 2007, Ranjit Singh was leaving a convenience store at a truck stop in Oakland, Oregon. As he was leaving the store, three men approached him and tore off his turban. The assailants immediately drove away in two separate cars.

On September 6th 2007, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office arrested three men in connection with the assault. The Douglas County District Attorney decided to pursue hate crime charges against the attackers.

This week the Grand Jury decided that there was not enough evidence to move forward with a hate crime prosecution. The Grand Jury therefore charged the attackers with misdemeanor theft and harassment, but not a felony hate crime.

While the Sikh Coalition is thankful that the Douglas County District Attorney's office pursued hate crime charges against the attackers, they say they are disappointed that the Grand Jury did not move forward with a hate crime indictment.

"We are also disturbed that the dollar value of Ranjit Singh's turban arose as an issue during the Grand Jury proceeding as a means of determining the degree of theft the attackers would be charged with. The turban is a priceless article of faith for Sikhs. Sikhs throughout history have chosen death over removing their turbans since it encapsulates a Sikh's commitment to their faith."

"I am disappointed in the Grand Jury's decision. The turban is not a hat... They asked me about the cost -- my turban is priceless," said victim Ranjit Singh.

"It is clear from our perspective that the Grand Jury completely misunderstood what's at stake here," said Amardeep Singh. "Stealing a Sikh's turban is not a matter of mere theft, it is a hate crime that injures the entire community."

The Sikh Coalition calls on the Douglas County District Attorney's office to disallow the attackers to plea down the current misdemeanor charges. The Coalition also calls on the federal government to investigate charging these attackers with hate crimes under federal law.

Salem is no stranger to the abuse of Sikh's. We reported in June 2006 that a Salem Sikh Temple was vandalized in another apparent hate crime. (see: Worshipers at South Salem Temple Believe the Burning of Their Flag is an Act of Terrorism)
- Source: Sikh Coalition

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Vic Pittman March 23, 2008 8:38 am (Pacific time)

Well...there goes my "Curmudgeon" your real name ? I reread your comment and it still seems that you were implying that even a hate crime should be measured by the monetary value of the situation, which I disagreed with."Our laws are written and intended to address the monetary value of property" What I was saying was that a hate crime does not have to involve any monetary considerstions. I did not mean to attack or insult you...many times I read your posts and agree wholeheartedly. I agree that as you stated, a Sikh's turban is no more valuable than a rosary or a crucifix. However, if I, for no reason, ripped a rosary or a crucifix off someone because I wanted to hurt, offend or demean them, that would to me be a hate crime. Thank you for your views , and I am sorry for saying that you must have had a shallow life.

Curmudgeon March 22, 2008 11:43 pm (Pacific time)

At no point did I say this is not a hate crime. It sure looks like one to me. Please point out to me where I said it wasn't. But that is a matter for the grand jury, who reviewed the evidence, to determine. And they heard a lot more evidence than we got from this article. For whatever reason, they determined that it did not meet the legal requirements to indict for a hate crime, so they were left with things like theft and harassment. It makes no difference how enraged you or I or they may be by the acts committed, they are limited to what the law allows them to charge. And when it comes down to theft, the law requires that the level of offense is determined by the monetary value of the property involved, and they have to determine what that value is. A family bible passed down from my great-grandparents may be priceless to me, but in the real world it has a monetary value that may be only a few dollars. If someone steals it and is caught, the grand jury cannot charge him with a felony just because the item is "priceless" to me. That is nothing more than my fantasy. They are bound by law to base the charge on the actual value of the item. They have no other choice. It appears to me that the grand jury in this case was unable to indict for a hate crime and did the best they could with what they had. I don't think they misunderstood anything, and I don't think they are stupid or bigots. They just didn't have the evidence to do anything more. You obviously chose to read far more into my comments than is actually there, assign your own meaning to my comments, ignore the facts, and then attack the messenger. Is that the way you go through life? Insulting people you don't know because you don't comprehend what they say and THINK they might hold an opinion different than yours? If you listened or read a little more carefully, you might find they have the same opinion you do, which is probably the case in this instance. But somehow, I don't think you care. I suspect it makes you feel powerful to attack people from the anonymity of your keyboard.

Vic March 22, 2008 5:55 pm (Pacific time)

Hate crimes do not have anything to do with the "monetary value" of ANYTHING. If I spray-paint a swastica on my Jewish neighbors door, using only a few cents worth of spray paint, or burn a cross in a black family's yard, doing only a few dollars of damage to their lawn, it is OK ? No hate crime?? If I get caught, I should only have to fix their lawn???Fantasy value, my ass...Tell me, Curmudgeon, how much money constitutes a "hate crime" ? It is sad that the only value you can comprehend is monetary....what a shallow life you must have had.

Curmudgeon March 22, 2008 4:23 pm (Pacific time)

I think the grand jury did NOT misunderstand anything. A Sihk's turban is no more priceless than a Catholic's rosary or a protestant's crucifix. Our laws are written and intended to address the monetary value of property, not the fantasy value.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.