A Cincinnati man has been charged with a federal hate crime for allegedly attacking an Asian-American college student because of his race in 2021 — an attack in which the defendant allegedly blamed the student for Covid-19 and threatened to kill him, authorities said. .
Darrin Johnson, 26, was indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime charges Wednesday and was arrested Thursday morning, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio said in a news release.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, the victim, a University of Cincinnati student who was punched by Johnson, suffered injuries including a minor contusion and cuts to her face.
Johnson approached the student on a sidewalk in Cincinnati in August 2021 as the student was preparing to run, the complaint states.
Johnson told the student to “go back to your country,” used a derogatory term for Covid-19 and accused him of “bringing it here” and threatened to kill him, according to the student’s complaint.
A witness said Johnson used an anti-Asian slur and said, “Thank you for Covid,” according to the complaint.
The comments included “blaming (the victim) for Covid,” the indictment filed in court said.
Johnson asked the student if he wanted to fight and, when the student said no, punched him in the head, according to the complaint, citing the student.
The student fell and hit his head on the hum of a parked car, the complaint says. Two bystanders tried to intervene, one of whom held Johnson to the ground. Police eventually arrived, told bystanders to let Johnson go, and arrested Johnson after a chase, according to the complaint.
Surveillance video taken from a nearby building shows Johnson punching the student, the complaint says.
The hate crime charge alleges that Johnson intentionally injured the student because of the student’s actual or perceived race, according to the indictment.
CNN reached out to Johnson’s attorney, Richard William Monahan, for comment, but he did not immediately respond.
Johnson pleaded guilty in October 2021 to felony assault and criminal intimidation charges in connection with the incident and was sentenced to 360 days in a county jail, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
If convicted of the federal hate crime charge, Johnson could face up to 10 years in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said.