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Press Release

Former TSA Employee Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crime for Assaulting Elderly Somali Man

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON – George Thompson, 64, a former employee of the Transportation Security Administration in Minneapolis, pleaded guilty today in federal court to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by assaulting an 83-year-old Somali man on May 4, 2010, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to information presented during the plea hearing, Thompson targeted the elderly man because he had a red beard, which caused Thompson to believe that the victim was a Muslim and an African immigrant. Thompson admitted that he assaulted the man solely because the victim was Muslim and Somali. During the assault, Thompson yelled that the victim should go back to Africa.

“ As this successful prosecution makes clear, acts of violence targeted at individuals because of their race or religion will not be permitted in the United States, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The department will continue to vigorously enforce the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and all the laws under our jurisdiction, to protect the rights of all individuals.”

“Physical violence motivated by racial or religious hatred exacerbate fear and tear at the fabric of our society,” said B. Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. “When warranted by the facts and circumstances, we will vigorously prosecute these crimes, which are violations of federal law. Here in Minnesota we have vibrant and diverse communities and should be celebrating that fact, not assaulting people because of it.”

Thompson faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for this crime.

This case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann M. Anaya and Trial Attorney Nicole Lee Ndumele of the Civil Rights Division.

Updated May 19, 2016

Hate Crimes
Press Release Number: 11-1032