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'Knockout game' Texan denied bail on hate crime charge

By Lisa Maria Garza

(Reuters) - A federal judge denied bond on Friday to a white Texas man charged with punching an elderly black man in a suspected race-based attack that the accused recorded as a video with his cell phone, court records show.

Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, is suspected of striking the 79-year-old victim with a single blow that fractured his jaw in two places, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in Houston.

"Barrett is a danger to the community. He stalked his victim," U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy said in court records on Friday, calling the attack vicious.

Barrett was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004 and has been treated with lithium and an anti-depressant, his lawyer George Parnham said, noting that his client also has a history of substance and alcohol abuse.

"He was not taking his prescribed medications on the day of the incident," Parnham said.

Prosecutors said Barrett made the video for a "knockout game" where attackers try to knock out a person with a single punch and then post a video of the assault on the Internet.

As the victim lay on the pavement, Barrett laughed, yelled "Knockout, baby!" and ran to his vehicle to flee the scene, the complaint said.

Later Barrett showed the video to an off-duty arson investigator he met by chance in a restaurant, who then notified authorities and had Barrett arrested, according to the court documents.

The video does not show Barrett's face, but prosecutors matched his voice to the voice heard in the video and the off-duty investigator told authorities that Barrett was wearing the same clothing as the person who filmed the video.

The November 24 attack in Katy, Texas, 30 miles west of Houston, was carried out "because of the man's race and color," according to the complaint.

"It is unimaginable in this day and age that one could be drawn to violently attack another based on the color of their skin," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Morris, from the bureau's Houston office.

The victim underwent surgery to remove three teeth and have two metal plates inserted in his jaw. He was hospitalized for four days.

Investigators said Barrett recorded himself making racially charged statements on his phone, including one where he is alleged to have said: "The plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?"

Barrett's parents expressed remorse in court today for their son's actions, but that they fear retaliation from the community after receiving anonymous threatening phone calls, Parnham said.

"They feel very sorry for what occurred, not only for their son, but also the elderly gentleman involved," he said.

Barrett was previously convicted for driving while intoxicated and stealing a vehicle. If convicted of the hate crime, Barrett faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

(Reporting By Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Gunna Dickson)

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