A man accused of beating a Somali American taxi driver while calling him a “terrorist” pleaded not guilty Monday to hate crime and assault charges.
Jesse Alexander Fleming, a U.S. Navy sailor based in Everett, is charged with second degree assault and malicious harassment, a charge that alleges that the Dec. 7 attack was motivated by racial, ethnic or religious bias. He is free in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Fleming, 26, is accused of beating taxi driver Adan Ali Gaal, 34, unconscious, causing Gaal’s cab to roll downhill, striking several cars and an apartment building in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, according to charging papers.
The case is the second high profile assault of a cab driver in Seattle that prosecutors say has alleged racial or religious motivation in the past two years. The previous case was tried by federal prosecutors.
Gaal told police that Fleming got angry after a slow credit card transaction, and accused Gaal of being a terrorist and told him to “go back to your own country,” according to charging papers. Gaal also suffered a broken nose, according to prosecutors.
Fleming told police that he hit Gaal in self-defense, according to the charging documents. According to KIRO TV, which obtained video of the investigation from the Seattle Police Department, Fleming told police that Gaal was using abusive and explicit language against the United States.