A 27-year-old white man was charged with a federal hate crime in connection with an alleged "knockout game"-style assault against a 79-year-old black man, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.
Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, of Katy, Texas was charged with one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, CNN reported. He was arrested by the FBI Thursday morning without incident, KRIV-TV in Houston added.
It's the latest development in a trend TheBlaze has reported on extensively, in which assailants attempt to knock out unsuspecting victims, usually passers-by on the street, with a single punch.
According to the federal complaint, Barrett attacked the elderly man on Nov. 24 because of the man’s race and color in what Barrett called a “knockout.” Barrett allegedly recorded himself on his cell phone attacking the man and showed the video to others, an FBI press release stated. The complaint alleges Barrett made several videos, one in which he identifies himself and another in which he makes a racial slur. In addition, Barrett had allegedly been working up the “courage” to play the knockout game for approximately a week.
The victim had two fractures to his jaw and spent more than four days in the hospital, said KTRK-TV in Houston, and is still recovering.
There's at Least One Other 'Knockout Game' Hate Crime Case -- But It's Not Federal
In New York police charged Amrit Marajh, 28, with two felony hate crimes after they said he assaulted a 24-year-old Jewish man wearing a yarmulke in Brooklyn on Nov. 22, NYPD Sgt. Carlos Nieves told USA Today.
Marajh, who is Trinidadian, was talking about the knockout game with three other men and made an anti-Semitic statement just before the incident, Nieves added to USA Today.
The big difference between Marajh's hate crime charges and Barrett's hate crime charges is that Marajh's haven't reached the federal level, TheBlaze confirmed Thursday with the Kings County (N.Y.) District Attorney's Office.
State Hate Crime Versus Federal Hate Crime
According to the Anti-Defamation League, states can level hate crime charges (which mean stiffer penalties upon conviction) when victims' race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender-identity, or disability is a factor. But the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act allows the federal government to provide assistance in the investigation and prosecution of such cases.
The United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Texas, which filed federal hate crime charges against Barrett, told TheBlaze Thursday that cases "are brought to us from a variety of federal, state and local authorities for possible prosecution when there has been a suspected violation of federal law."
TheBlaze contacted the Katy (Texas) Police Department on Thursday to learn why Barrett's case prompted officials there believe it warranted federal assistance, but it wouldn't comment and referred all questions to the FBI. TheBlaze contacted the FBI's Houston office on Thursday, but the message wasn't immediately returned.
If convicted, Barrett faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Previous to Barrett's arrest, KTRK filed a story noting: "The FBI is now helping, looking at whether there could be a hate crime in this case, since the victim is black and the assailant is white."
'If I Were to Hit a Black Person, Would This Be Nationally Televised?'
Investigators told KTRK they only found out about the Barrett case because he showed off the video at a bar to an off-duty police officer he'd just met. Then authorities found not only the video of the attack but 10 others, including one in which Barrett allegedly says, "The plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?"
KTRK reported that Barrett also makes derogatory statements toward blacks in other videos, including one in which he says that they "haven't fully experienced the blessing of evolution."
Barrett's attorney, George Parnham, said his client has severe mental health issues, is bi-polar, and is on heavy medication.
"There's no question that that entered into these particular type of actions," Parnham told KTRK. "That's not an excuse, that's just real."
After the attack, the victim's face was swollen on one side, and he has had to suck out of a straw in order to drink, a nephew, Joseph Lewis, told KTRK.
"Bout time! That's good they got him. They should've been gotten him the first day," the victim's niece, Rosezetta Heard, said.
Here's a report from CNN:
The following is a KTRK-TV report that preceded disclosure of the suspect's name: