A 23-year-old Fresno man was found guilty Wednesday of a hate crime for assaulting an elderly Sikh man and urging his friend to run the victim over – a brutal crime that was captured by a private security camera.
Prosecutor Timothy Donovan said Daniel Coronel Wilson Jr. targeted Amrik Singh Bal because he believed the bearded victim, who wore a turban and robe when he was attacked, was a terrorist.
Quite the contrary, Donovan told the jury: The 68-year-old Bal was a hardworking, peaceful man whose sole goal was to provide for his family.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated two hours before finding Wilson guilty of felony assault causing great bodily injury to Bal, who was punched in the face several times and then run over by a car driven by Alexis Mendoza. The jury also ruled the assault was a hate crime.
Please don’t kill me.
Amrik Singh Bal, recounting to police what he told his assailants on Dec. 26, 2015
After the verdict, Fresno defense attorney David Munoz asked Judge Jonathan Conklin to allow Wilson to remain free on $35,000 bail. Munoz said Wilson was not a flight risk because he attends Fresno City College, has a job, cares for his parents, and has attended every court hearing.
But Conklin denied the request, ordering Wilson to be taken to jail and held without bail until he is sentenced Dec. 2. Wilson faces up to eight years in prison.
Wilson stood trial alone because Mendoza, 17, committed suicide in April.
In closing arguments Wednesday, Donovan told jurors: “It’s a hate crime because the victim was judged by the clothing he wore and by his faith.”
Donovan said Wilson instigated the assault by telling Mendoza: “ISIS. Terrorist. Let’s get him.”
Wilson did not testify in the trial. His trial lawyer, Marina Pincus, told jurors there was not enough evidence to convict Wilson since video of the incident does not clearly show who punched the victim nor shows who was in the car that ran the victim over.
In addition, Pincus said two witnesses, ages 12 and 17, told police that they saw a man and woman attacking Bal – not two men.
ISIS. Terrorist. Let’s get him.
What the prosecution says Daniel Coronel Wilson Jr. said to Alexis Mendoza, instigating a hate crime
In his closing summation, Donovan said Sikhs and Muslims have been mistaken targets of hate crimes and harassment since the 9/11 terrorist attacks by people who erroneously identify them as terrorists and leap to the conclusion that they represent terrorism.
According to police, the assault on Bal stirred outrage and fear within Fresno’s Sikh community.
He was on his way to work when he was attacked around 7 a.m. while walking on Brunswick Avenue near Shields Avenue, west of Highway 99.
Bal told police that a skinny kid and a heavy-set subject got out of the car and beat him with their fists.
“Please don’t kill me,” Bal said he told his assailants, fending them off with his lunch bag and a water bottle.
After the beating, the two assailants got back in their car. Bal tried to run away, but the car ran him over, slamming his head into the pavement.
Donovan told jurors on Wednesday that Wilson’s action could have cost Bal his life because after Mendoza’s black Dodge Challenger ran him over, Bal was left unconscious on the roadway for six minutes before he was discovered by friends.
The assault left Bal with a broken collarbone, cuts on his head and to one of his ears, and a swollen jaw, Donovan said.
It’s a hate crime because the victim was judged by the clothing he wore and by his faith.
Prosecutor Timothy Donovan
After the attack, Wilson and Mendoza put the public in danger by racing away from the crime scene and running a stop sign, the prosecutor said.
Once police offered a reward, tipsters led Fresno police to Mendoza and Wilson, who were arrested three months after the attack. Police detective Haywood Irving interviewed two of Wilson’s friends. Police later seized Mendoza’s car as evidence. A long scratch on the hood showed where the victim slid over the car after he was hit, Donovan said.
In court, the two friends implicated Wilson and Mendoza, Donovan said.
In addition, Donovan played to the jury recordings of jail telephone conversations between Wilson and his relatives. In one conversation, a relative says: “It’s stupid. You’re not even driving.” In another conversation, a relative tells Wilson that he was “caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Donovan, however, said Wilson knew exactly what he was doing when he assaulted Bal.