WASHINGTON: Rory Benson was was sentenced to 15 months in prison last Friday after pleading guilty to the December 16, 2017 assault of Swarn Singh with a deadly weapon. Mr. Singh is a 53-year-old Sikh American husband and father who works in the Seattle-area as a taxi driver.
The Sikh Coalition represented Singh and provided free legal support during court proceedings. Singh submitted a poignant statement to the King County Superior Court. In the statement, he urged his attacker to recognise the damage caused, detailing his injuries and the impact of the assault on the Sikh community.
“I am deeply thankful for the Sikh Coalition’s support and relentless advocacy,” said Singh. “Nobody should endure this violence, but if this happens to another Sikh, it’s incredible to have the Sikh Coalition’s free legal services.”
On December 16, 2017, Swarn Singh, who maintains Sikh articles of faith including unshorn hair and a turban, had parked outside an apartment building to drop off Rory Benson and his mother. It was then that Benson, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, brutally attacked Singh.
He grabbed the piece of cloth Swarn Singh kept in his taxi to wipe the windshield and attempted to suffocate him with it. Swarn Singh immediately ran out of the taxi, and Benson grabbed a hammer from his bag, chasing him on foot. Benson caught up to Swarn Singh and hit him in the head repeatedly, specifically targeting his turban and knocking it to the ground. Swarn Singh suffered a scalp laceration and a skull fracture as a result of the attack. He was transported to the hospital, and Benson was arrested.
The Sikh Coalition worked with Swarn Singh for 11 months to make sure the Bellevue Police Department and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office were properly investigating the incident and reviewing appropriate charges. Speaking about the case, Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney, Giselle Klapper stated:
“We applaud Mr. Singh’s courage in standing up to hate and telling the court that when one Sikh is singled out and assaulted, it is an attack on all Sikhs,” and that “We believe this crime was motivated by bias, and we are here for every Sikh who experiences bigotry and violence.”
The Sikh Coalition says it will continue supporting Singh and work with the Seattle-area Sikh community to minimize the risk of future attacks.
The Sikh Coalition provides free and confidential legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or identity. If you believe you or somebody you know has experienced bias, bigotry or backlash, fill out their confidential legal intake form or call (212) 655-3095.
The Sikh Coalition has also developed a new Taxi Cab/Rideshare Know Your Rights Guide that is specifically designed to make sure that Sikh drivers are taking all of the necessary precautions when driving. The guide is available at the link below and printed versions can be requested by emailing [email protected]