Two men who allegedly assaulted a black man in Biddeford, Maine, last spring are now named in a federal indictment accusing them of a federal hate crime.
Maurice Diggins, 34, and Dusty Leo, 27, both of Biddeford, Maine, were arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, on charges of conspiracy and violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
It is believed the case marks the first time that the 10-year-old federal statute has been used to bring hate crime charges in Maine, a state with a population of 1.3 million.
The two suspects previously were arrested on state assault charges and named in a civil complaint filed by the Maine state attorney general’s office. In June, a state judge issued default judgments against both men in the civil proceeding, barring them from harassing the victim or other people based on bias.
Last week, a federal grand jury returned the indictment containing the new federal charges.
Charging documents allege that on April 15, Diggins and Leo assaulted an African-American man, whom they did not know, after seeing him in the parking lot of a Biddeford 7-Eleven convenience store.
“Who you eyeballing?” Diggins allegedly shouted at the 34-year-old victim, adding a racial slur.
The indictment alleges the alleged assailants then hit the victim and threw him to the pavement, breaking his jaw. When the man attempted to flee, court documents say, the attackers chased him in a truck, shouting “Where you at?”
Diggins has “Dirty White Boy” and Nazi swastikas tattooed on his arm, according to the civil complaint.
Leanne Robbin, the assistant state attorney general who handled the civil case against the men, said it’s the first time that federal prosecutors have charged someone with a hate crime in Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported.
The state prosecutor told the newspaper that the “brutality” of the alleged crimes stood out to her.
Prosecutors have asked that the pair be held without bail prior to their trial. If convicted of conspiracy and the federal hate crime, the men face a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Dusty Leo and Maurice Diggins were arrested for having allegedly attacked and yelled racial slurs at an African-American man this spring.
The pair have already been found to have violated civil rights law in state court and will now face a federal criminal trial for allegedly conspiring to and committing a hate crime.
Leo, 27, and Diggins, 34, appear to be the first people prosecuted in Maine under a federal law passed in 2009, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine said.