A Florida man has been convicted of a hate crime for a road rage incident last year in which he tried to run a Black man driving with his family off the road and assault him — only to find the victim was a mixed-martial artist who fought back and put him in a chokehold.
Jordan Patrick Leahy, 29, was found guilty by a federal jury in Tampa on Wednesday of interfering with the victim’s federally protected right to drive on the street in the Aug. 8, 2021 incident in Seminole, Florida, the Department of Justice announced in a release.
Prosecutors called the incident a “racially-motivated attack,” alleging Leahy targeted the victim, identified by the initials J.T., because of his race and color and because he was traveling on a public road.
In the road attack, Leahy came upon J.T. driving on Starkey Road, headed to Clearwater, Florida, with his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter, court documents show.
Leahy pulled alongside J.T., yelled racial slurs and pretended to “shoot” at J.T.’s vehicle with hand gestures, according to trial evidence.
He then used his car to try and force the victim’s car off the road, prosecutors said. Leahy allegedly followed the victim for nearly a mile and a half before he sideswiped J.T’s car and fled the scene.
J.T. caught up with Leahy, pulling up behind him at a red light, officials said.
Leahy then “got out of his car, stormed at J.T., and tried to assault him, again yelling racial slur,” the release said.
Leahy attempted to strike J.T., but he didn’t know J.T. is a practicing mixed-martial artist, who was able to swiftly put Leahy in a chokehold until he was unconscious and restrained him until police could arrive, court documents show.
When officers from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, they said Leahy made “numerous statements evidencing his bias motive,” including saying Black people need to be kept “in their areas,” the release said.
Leahy faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, prosecutors said.
He was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending sentencing.
NBC News has reached out to his lawyers for comment.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the verdict “should send a strong message” on the government’s commitment to prosecuting “those who would use violence to enforce heinous racist beliefs.”
“Across America, families must be able to freely travel our public streets without fear of being attacked because of race,” she said.