Kansas Men Plead Guilty for Roles in Federal Hate Crime Against Black Somali Men
Armando Sotelo, 24, pleaded guilty today to a hate crime offense for his role in a June 19, 2015, assault of a black Somali man in Dodge City, Kansas. Omar Cantero Martinez, 32, also pleaded guilty today to providing perjured testimony during a hate crimes prosecution arising from the same assault.
Sotelo pleaded guilty in the District of Kansas to one count of a hate crime violation based on race and national origin, while Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of perjury for providing materially false testimony during the October 2016 federal criminal jury trial related to the hate crime.
“Hate violence not only harms individuals but also threatens the diversity of our society and the well-being of our communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “In this case, Sotelo attacked the victim because of the color of his skin and his country of origin, inflicting bodily injury during the assault. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute hate crimes so that all people can live their lives with the security, protection and freedom they deserve.”
During Sotelo’s plea hearing, he admitted that he assaulted the victim, identified as M.H.D., because of M.H.D.’s race and national origin. Sotelo admitted that he, with the assistance of two other men, approached M.H.D., who is black and from Somalia, while M.H.D. was sitting with two other Somali men on a bench outside the African Market. The defendant approached the bench from one side, while the two other men approached the bench from the other. Sotelo and the other men all yelled racial and anti-Somali slurs at M.H.D. and at the two other Somalis on the bench. The defendant then punched M.H.D. in the head without any justification, causing M.H.D. bodily injury. Following the assault, Sotelo fled the scene and directed another person to wash his clothing, which was bloody from the assault.
During his plea hearing, Martinez admitted that on the night of June 19, 2015, he had used a broken glass bottle to stab victim S.A.M. and slash victim A.M.A. without justification. Martinez also admitted that racial and anti-Somali slurs were used during the attack and that he and Sotelo instigated the attack. He further admitted that he provided false testimony about the incident during a federal jury trial in which he and Sotelo were charged with hate crimes offenses for the attack, that he knew his testimony was false at the time that he gave it and that his false testimony was material to the hate crimes charges.
Sotelo faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and Martinez faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2017, and they will remain in custody until then.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Garden City Resident Agency with assistance from the Dodge City Police and the Ford County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Risa Berkower and Special Litigation Counsel Jared Fishman of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst of the District of Kansas.