December 17, 2018 (Seattle, WA) – On Friday, a man was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to the December 16, 2017 assault of Swarn Singh with a deadly weapon. Mr. Singh is a 53-year-old Sikh American husband and father who works as a Seattle-area taxi driver.
In response, the Sikh Coalition represented Mr. Singh and provided free legal support during court proceedings. Mr. Singh submitted a poignant impact statement to the King County Superior Court. In the statement, Mr. Singh urged his attacker to recognize the damage caused, detailing his injuries and the impact of the assault on the Sikh community.
“I am deeply thankful for the Sikh Coalition’s support and relentless advocacy,” said Swarn Singh. “Nobody should endure this violence, but if this happens to another Sikh, it’s incredible to have the Sikh Coalition’s free legal services.”
On December 16, 2017, Mr. Singh, who maintains Sikh articles of faith including unshorn hair and a turban, had parked outside an apartment building to drop off Rory Benson and his mother. It was then that Mr. Benson, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, brutally attacked Mr. Singh. He grabbed the piece of cloth Mr. Singh kept in his taxi to wipe the windshield and attempted to suffocate him with it. Mr. Singh immediately ran out of the taxi, and Mr. Benson grabbed a hammer from his bag, chasing him on-foot. Mr. Benson caught up to Mr. Singh and hit him in the head repeatedly, specifically targeting his turban and knocking it to the ground. Mr. Singh suffered a scalp laceration and a skull fracture as a result of the attack. He was transported to the hospital, and Mr. Benson was arrested.
The Sikh Coalition worked with Mr. Singh for 11 months to make sure the Bellevue Police Department and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office were properly investigating the incident and reviewing appropriate charges.
“We applaud Mr. Singh’s courage in standing up to hate and telling the court that when one Sikh is singled out and assaulted, it is an attack on all Sikhs,” said Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney, Giselle Klapper. “We believe this crime was motivated by bias, and we are here for every Sikh who experiences bigotry and violence.”
The Sikh Coalition will continue supporting Mr. Singh and work with the Seattle-area Sikh community to minimize the risk of future attacks. The Sikh Coalition provides free and confidential legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or identity. If you believe you or somebody you know has experienced bias, bigotry or backlash, please fill out our confidential legal intake form or call (212) 655-3095.
The Sikh Coalition has also developed a new Taxi Cab/Rideshare Know Your Rights Guide that is specifically designed to make sure that Sikh drivers are taking all of the necessary precautions when driving. If you or somebody you know drives for a living, please share this guide. It’s available in English and Punjabi, and you can request printed versions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.