WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two southwest Kansas men were punished Wednesday for their roles in a hate crime attack on three Somali that a federal judge said flies in the face of everything cherished in this country.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten sentenced Omar Cantero Martinez, 32, a Mexican citizen, to 26 months in prison. His brother, Armando Sotelo, 24, of Dodge City, got a time-served sentence for the 20 months he had already been in jail in the case.
The men were tried last year for three hate crimes charges but the trial ended in a hung jury. In lieu of a re-trial, they later pleaded guilty — Sotelo to one hate crime count and Martinez to one perjury count for falsely testifying at the trial that he had been acting in self-defense.
Both men told the court they were sorry in brief statements.
Chrystal Krier, the defense attorney for Martinez argued the attack was not something that was thought out or planned. "This was something that just happened," she told the judge
But Marten chaffed at the defense attorney's characterization, saying nothing just happens — that it was a deliberate act.
Prosecutors had sought longer prison terms for both defendants.
"It should send the message this kind of hate crime is not acceptable in this country," said Jared Fishman, special litigation counsel for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Marten said he tried to find a punishment that fits the crime, adding it is "very easy even for a judge to become emotional" and acknowledging he was struggling with coming up with a sentence that was sufficient but not greater than necessary.
Before the June 2015 assault, the two defendants went at a bar in downtown Dodge City to drink and play pool. When a Somali patron came in and ordered a drink, the men started "acting aggressively" toward him, prosecutors said in a court filing. The Somali left quickly, without finishing his drink.
The two men left the bar to chase him down, but instead of finding the bar patron they found three different Somali men sitting on a bench about a block away outside an African grocery store. They attacked them.
Martinez used a broken glass bottle to stab one man in the abdomen, arm and back and slash another man on the arm. A third injured man escaped to get help.
All three victims sustained physical injuries, including cuts, bruising, bleeding and pain, prosecutors said. The two most seriously hurt were airlifted from Dodge City to a Wichita hospital, where one man underwent emergency surgery to repair damage to his internal organs and was hospitalized for five days.
Martinez, who had been deported in 2007, also was sentenced Wednesday in a separate case to time served for illegal re-entry after a previous deportation. He is expected to be deported after finishing his prison term on the perjury charge.
In another related case, Diego Martinez, a brother and half-brother of the attackers, faces trial March 21 on charges of providing false information to the FBI during its investigation and threatening a government witness in the hate crime case against his brothers.