Portland, MN (AP) — A man charged with violating a federal hate crime in Maine when he and a nephew attacked two Black men was found guilty on Tuesday. After he was arrested, Maurice Diggins later invoked the name of the state’s former governor and predicted he wouldn’t be convicted in the nation’s Whitest state.
Police charged Diggins of Biddeford with two counts of hate crimes and one count of conspiracy in connection to attacks that prosecutors described as unprovoked assaults on Black men in Portland and in his hometown in April 2018. Diggins, who’s White, was convicted after trial by an all-White jury, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Diggins had told his wife on a recording played for jurors that Maine people “want to keep the streets safe.” He also paraphrased former Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s 2016 remarks about out-of-state drug traffickers “impregnating our women and selling our kids drugs.”
“He’s the racist, not me,” Diggins said on the recording.
But lead federal prosecutor Sheila Sawyer said during closing arguments that Diggins and his nephew, Dusty Leo, targeted victims because of their skin color. One of the attackers came up behind the victims and punched them so hard they suffered broken jaws, prosecutors said. Leo pleaded guilty to conspiracy and hate crime charges and hasn’t been sentenced.
Diggins also has yet to be sentenced. He 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, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
Prosecutors also pointed out he has tattoos of swastikas and other racist symbols. Defense attorney David Beneman asked the jurors not to “judge a book by its cover.”