U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee Statement on Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance
Portland, Maine: Following a three-day jury trial, Maurice Diggins, of Biddeford, Maine, was convicted today of conspiring to commit hate crimes and of actually committing hate crimes by engaging in a series of racially motivated attacks against black men in Maine, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank of the District of Maine.
“Today’s conviction demonstrates that the Department of Justice will not tolerate horrific racially-motivated attacks,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The jury’s verdict reflects the sad fact that racism and violence remain linked more than 150 years after our nation abolished slavery. The Department of Justice will continue forcefully to prosecute race-based violations of our federal civil rights laws.”
“Today, a jury found Maurice Diggins guilty of committing three hate crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank of the District of Maine. “At trial, the government proved that Diggins conspired with his nephew, Dusty Leo, to brutally assault two men because they were black. In both cases, the men’s jaws required surgery to repair extensive damage. Diggins’ and Leo’s behavior was despicable. It violated America’s and Maine’s core values that all men are created equal, that they are entitled to pursue their lives without racial discrimination, and entitled to be safe from being assaulted because of the color of their skin. I am grateful to the jurors for their service, to the trial team for ably presenting the case, and to the federal defender for providing Mr. Diggins with the type of vigorous defense that our system provides to all defendants.”
According to evidence presented at trial, on April 15, 2018, defendant Diggins and his nephew, Dusty Leo (who previously pled guilty in connection with this case), committed two separate racially motivated assaults, one in Portland and one in Biddeford. In the Portland assault, which occurred just before 1:00 a.m., Diggins attacked a black Sudanese male without provocation, breaking the victim’s jaw. During that same incident, Diggins and Leo assaulted another black man who was standing nearby. Witnesses heard Diggins and Leo using racial epithets during the incidents.
In the second incident, which occurred approximately an hour later and approximately 20 miles away in Biddeford, defendant Diggins and Leo drove in Leo’s truck into the parking lot of a convenience store, where Diggins got out of the truck and approached a black man who was walking toward the store’s entrance. Diggins directed a racial slur at the man and distracted him while Leo got out of the truck and sucker-punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. The unprovoked attack broke the victim’s jaw in several places.
Leo pleaded guilty on February 25, admitting that he conspired to commit hate crimes and that he committed the hate crime against the victim in Biddeford.
Diggins faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the two hate crime charges, and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge. Leo faces the same penalties for the hate crime charge and conspiracy charge to which he pleaded guilty. They will be sentenced after the preparation of presentence investigation reports by the U.S. Probation Office.
The Biddeford Police Department and the FBI investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Sawyer and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Timothy Visser.
For more information about the Department of Justice’s work to combat and prevent hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes a one-stop portal with links to Department of Justice hate crimes resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other organizations and individuals.
Sheila W. Sawyer Assistant United States Attorney Tel: (207) 780-3257