A Marine veteran was reportedly able to avoid jail time for attacking a waiter at an American-Iraqi restaurant after the prosecutor claimed he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Damien Rodriguez was sentenced to five years of probation and fined $21,000 for his unwarranted attack on a waiter because he was “not American,” The Oregonian reported.
According to a police report, in April 2017, Rodriguez hit a waiter on the head with a chair at Portland’s DarSalam restaurant, claiming “I’m American, you guys aren’t American.”
Fortunately, the waiter did not sustain any serious injuries.
However, Tiffany Sahib, co-owner of the restaurant, marked the attack as a hate crime, one which her family will never forget.
“My family, they have fear now in everything—we can’t forget this,” Tiffany’s husband Ghaith Sahib told The New York Times months after the attack. Sahib migrated to the United States from Iraq after surviving a bomb attack in Baghdad.
He stated his only agenda was to “show people a kinder side of his country.”
Tiffany Sahib and husband Ghaith own Dar Salam Iraqi Restraunt. She says attack there by marine hate crime and wants more serious charges. pic.twitter.com/URfVxnZmNl— Pat Dooris (@PatDooris) April 25, 2017
However, Rodriguez’s lawyer claimed in court that even though there was no incentive to attack, the Marine did not commit a hate crime – he said the attack was entirely driven by post war trauma.
The friend who accompanied Rodriguez to the restaurant at the time of the incident said “he started having major flashbacks as soon as he entered the restaurant.”
According to the employees’ statements, the ex-Marine told employees to shake his hand before he started boasting about how many people he had killed during the war and continued with profanities against Iraq. Staff members at DarSalam called the police after he assaulted the waiter.
Rodriguez was charged with second-degree counts of assault, disorderly conduct and intimidation.
Whereas the state of Oregon considers intimidation or physical contact on the basis of race or nationality a hate crime, the marine was let off the hook after his lawyer convinced the court that this attack was only “a by-product of the trauma from his military service.”
Rodriguez’s lawyers showed letters from his client’s physicians and interviews with Iraq and Afghanistan interpreters as proof of post traumatic stress disorder and “lack of racist intent.”
During the trial, Rodriguez issued a formal apology to the Sahibs and their employees.
“Words will not undo what happened, how I reacted violently and irrationally, seemingly out of nowhere and frightened you and your patrons,” he said.
The Marine veteran reportedly checked into rehabilitation center for treatment of PTSD and substance abuse post attack.
Sean Davis, a friend of DarSalam owners and a veteran himself, said he was happy that Rodriguez was getting the help he needs.
“I’m happy he’s getting help for PTSD that he needed. It shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail free card just because you’re a veteran,” he explained.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office