A white motorist has been sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of a racially motivated crime. The aggressor had no idea the African-American man was a mixed martial artist, and subsequently detained him by placing him in a chokehold until authorities came to arrest him for attempting to intimidate and injure his family.
On Monday, Nov. 7, the Department of Justice announced Jordan Patrick Leahy, 29, would be sentenced to two years in prison and three years in supervised release after attacking a man, known only by the initials J.T., and his family in Seminole, Florida, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.
The sentencing comes a few months after his federal conviction.
The FBI Tampa Field Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol worked on the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlton Gammons and trial attorneys David Reese and Laura-Kate Bernstein of the Civil Rights Division.
The Black man was driving on a public road when the assault attempt transpired.
According to the government agency’s new release, federal judge Paul Huck from the Middle District of Florida, passed down the sentence, saying the man “willfully” intimidated and interfered with J.T. and his family during the altercation.
The DOJ also stated, Leahy tried to “intimidate and interfere with J.T. through the use of a dangerous weapon (Leahy’s vehicle), because of J.T.’s race and color, and because J.T. was traveling on a public roadway in Seminole, Florida.”
The DOJ stated during the trial the government introduced evidence, detailing what happened that day.
“Leahy, while driving, came upon J.T. driving on a public road, [and] shouted racial slurs at J.T.,” the release shares, before noting he “attempted to force J.T.’s car off the road.”
In an effort to defend himself and his family, J.T., who had his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter in the car at the time, used his training as a martial artist to stop Leahy in his tracks until authorities arrived.
When deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene, Leahy reportedly was still upset, making comments that substantiated race as a motive for his harassment. One of the statements included telling law enforcement Black people needed to be confined “in their areas.”
A sentencing memorandum submitted by the prosecution stated, “After being arrested by law enforcement, and while waiting to be transported in the back of a patrol vehicle, the defendant was asked about the incident. He responded, ‘I just remember throwing up the Nazi salute and trying to pick a fight with some random-ass fucking colored people, bro, that’s all I remember.’”
According to the prosecution, “the defendant plainly sums up his motives. Just as the jury found and the evidence at trial established, the defendant intentionally selected J.T. because he was Black.”
Huck said he initially planned to sentence Leahy to 30 months in federal prison, opting for the lesser sentence because both parties agreed to give him credit for the six months he has already served in the Pinellas County Jail from the state charges on the case.
When given the chance to speak, Leahy said he felt like a “scumbag” after he discovered there was a child in the car.
“It’s embarrassing to my family, and I’m just ashamed of it,” he said.
His defense also submitted that their client was not “raised in a racist household,” but started using racialized language after a stint in prison “after stalking his ex-girlfriend.”
His lawyers included in their sentencing memorandum that Leahy “found the inmates sorting themselves by race, and found himself doing the same for self-preservation,” and his “use of racist language after prison was a new way to shock people,” according to family members.
The attorneys also submitted other evidence to prove he was not really racist, such as that in the past Leahy “frequently associated with Black people and supported Black public figures like football players and President Obama.”
That did not move the feds.
Assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “This federal court has sentenced Jordan Leahy to prison for his decision to weaponize his vehicle in a racist attack on J.T.’s family.”
Maintaining her commitment to racial justice and the protection of the civil rights of people of color, she said, “The department will continue to aggressively prosecute those who seek to threaten and intimidate our community members because of their race. All persons should be free to travel on the public roadways without fear of being harmed because of who they are.”
“Today’s sentence sends a clear message that racially-motivated criminal behavior is especially repugnant and unacceptable,” U.S. attorney Roger Handberg of the Middle District of Florida, added. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws.”
Special Agent in Charge David Walker for the FBI Tampa Field Division said, “We will not allow hate motivated crimes to infiltrate our communities and threaten our citizens,” reiterating that “investigating civil rights violations is among the FBI’s highest priorities.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gammons argued the defendant should have received a longer prison sentence, saying doing so is in the best interest of the community – protecting him from his violent bigoted behavior.
Gammons said, “This is a random, unprovoked act of violence.”
The prosecutor also read a statement from the family, who did not attend the sentencing.
J.T. expressed he had never experienced racism in this degree before, despite seeing it in the media. However, Leahy’s action placed him in the fraternity of Black people violently impacted by racism.
One of the reasons why he decided to not attend the sentences, Gammons read, was because he wanted to stop giving energy to Leahy — hoping to never think about him again.