A white Florida man has been convicted of a federal hate crime over a highly dangerous and racially motivated road rage attack on a Black man who was driving with his girlfriend and daughter last summer.
Jordan Patrick Leahy, 29, was found guilty by federal jurors in Tampa on Wednesday of one count of unlawful interference with a federally protected activity, namely, driving on the street.
The conviction comes as a double loss for Leahy because the man he attacked was a trained mixed martial artist who easily subdued his assailant and kept him in a chokehold until authorities arrived.
“Across America, families must be able to freely travel our public streets without fear of being attacked because of race,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a press release. “This verdict should send a strong message that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to prosecuting, to the fullest extent of the law, those who would use violence to enforce heinous racist beliefs.”
Leahy was indicted in late April of this year on two counts of violating federal law for “using force and threat of force” to “willfully intimidate” his victim, identified in court papers only as J.T., and “attempt to injure, intimidate, and interfere” with him because of his “race and color.” One of the counts (and the one on which he was convicted) also alleged the defendant used a “dangerous weapon,” his vehicle, to attack J.T.
The underlying incident occurred on Aug. 8, 2021, and is documented in the government’s response to Leahy’s motion to dismiss.
As the Black family traveled home from dinner, Leahy “zoomed up” beside J.T.’s car, hung out of his window, and made gun gestures with his hands, a government motion recounts.
“While making the gestures, Leahy yelled racial slurs at J.T., and then swerved into J.T.’s lane,” the court document reads. “When J.T. tried to escape by driving away, Leahy aggressively tailgated J.T., then pulled alongside J.T. again and swerved aggressively into J.T.’s lane, forcing J.T. to swerve into a turn lane. As he did so, Leahy’s car sideswiped J.T.’s car. The vehicles did not fully collide, but Leahy’s driver-side mirror hit J.T.’s passenger-side mirror.”
Leahy then drove away.
The Black driver, however, realized he had been the victim of a hit-and-run and was intent on getting the license plate of his assailant’s car and photographing it to report the incident to the police.
After catching up to the defendant at an intersection, J.T. used his cellphone to take the license plate picture. Leahy then got out of his car and “aggressively” made for J.T.’s vehicle, the motion says. J.T. was concerned Leahy might have had a gun and told his girlfriend to call the police while he got out of the vehicle to protect his family.
The government motion details what happened next:
J.T. then got out of his car, intending to draw any fire away from J.T.’s girlfriend and daughter. The two met beside Leahy’s car. When they did, Leahy was the aggressor: saying something to the effect of, “Fuck you, [n-word],” Leahy tried to strike J.T. with a closed fist. J.T., a martial artist, slipped Leahy’s blow and punched Leahy twice. J.T. then caught Leahy in a chokehold until Leahy briefly passed out, and restrained Leahy until Pinellas County deputies arrived.
When deputies did arrive on the scene, Leahy made several statements to indicate he was motivated by anti-Black bigotry, telling law enforcement Black people need to be kept “in their areas,” the U.S. Department of Justice noted in their press release on the conviction.
“No one should be targeted, threatened, intimidated or assaulted because of their race,” U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said. “The defendant in this case acted upon his bigoted beliefs and put an entire family and others’ safety at risk. We and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners will not tolerate such behaviors in our community.”
Leahy faces up to ten years in federal prison. His sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
[image via Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office]
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