A jury has convicted a Florida man of a hate crime after he attempted to run a Black family off the road. The conviction is the second loss the defendant received related to the case. During the incident the father in the family, a skilled fighter, beat the assailant, placing him in a chokehold.
On Thursday, Aug. 25, the Department of Justice announced Jordan Patrick Leahy, 29, was found guilty by a federal jury in Tampa, Florida, for a racially charged hate crime against a Black family on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge David Walker of the FBI Tampa Field Office stood together to share the details of the case.
The man was indicted in April 2022 on two charges of violating federal law protecting all citizens of living by “using force and threat of force” to “willfully intimidate” the man and his family, and by attempting “to injure, intimidate, and interfere” with him because of his “race and color.”
The victims of this “racially motivated attack,” according to a release, were a family of three, consisting of one father (identified only as J.T.), a mother (J.T. ‘s girlfriend), and their daughter.
Leahy encounters the trio on they were the way to the girlfriend’s home after hanging with loved ones at a family gathering. At some point, he approached the car, threatening the father and “calling him racial slurs.”
“While making the gestures, Leahy yelled racial slurs at J.T., and then swerved into J.T. ‘s lane,” the court document reads. “When J.T. tried to escape by driving away, Leahy aggressively tailgated J.T., then pulled alongside J.T. again and swerved aggressively into J.T.’s lane, forcing J.T. to swerve into a turn lane.”
Then, with his vehicle, he attempted to force the family off the road, chasing them for “nearly a mile and half” before sideswiping J.T.’s car. The DOJ says the father did everything he could to “evade the attack,” but to no avail.
“As he did so, Leahy’s car sideswiped J.T. ‘s car. The vehicles did not fully collide, but Leahy’s driver-side mirror hit J.T.’s passenger-side mirror,” the court document stated.
After trying to run the vehicle off the road, Leahy leaves the accident scene, only to be stopped at a red light. J.T. pulled up behind him, prompting Leahy to get out of his car and confront the victim. Leahy is said, in his angry fit, to have tried to assault the man while continuing to spew epithets at the man.
However, according to NBC News, Leahy was unaware the man he was assaulting was a practicing mixed-martial artist.
Court documents stated J.T. used his training to restrain Leahy, putting him in a chokehold until he passed out.
When Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, they witnessed the now-convicted bigot making “numerous statements evidencing his bias motive, including telling the officers that Black people need to be kept ‘in their areas.’”
Clarke addressed the verdict by stating the importance for all Americans, regardless of color, to have their civil rights protected.
“Across America, families must be able to freely travel our public streets without fear of being attacked because of race,” a statement from Clarke read. “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.”
Handberg echoed her sentiments, saying, “No one should be targeted, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted because of their race. 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,” the U.S. Attorney said.
The case was investigated by multiple agencies, starting with the local sheriff’s department and Florida Highway Patrol. The two bodies worked also with the FBI to bring justice to J.W. and his family.
“Hate crimes are not just an attack on an individual, they are an attack on entire communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Walker. “We want to assure the public the FBI will work diligently investigating crimes driven by hate and intolerance. We encourage anyone who believes their civil rights have been violated to report it to the FBI.”
While Leahy was charged with two crimes, he was only convicted on one of the counts, according to Law & Crime. The hate crime he will do time for alleged he used his vehicle as a “dangerous weapon,” when he attacked J.T. and his family.
The DOJ stated Leahy is currently remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending sentencing and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.