Sikh man testifies in hate-crime trial

Newsday

By Herbert Lowe
Staff Writer
November 2, 2005

A Sikh man testifying in a hate-crime trial in Queens Tuesday identified the men who are charged with harassing him and another Sikh before assaulting them after an argument over their turbans.

Gurcharan Singh testified that, on July 11, 2004, he, his cousin Rajinder Singh Bammi, a friend of Bammi's and the friend's son were exiting a car when one of the defendants, Ryan Meehan, yelled, "Give me my curtain," outside the Villa Russo catering hall in Richmond Hill.

"I asked him, "What do you mean give me my curtain?" Singh told Justice Seymour Rotker, who is presiding over a non-jury trial involving five defendants in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.

Singh, 51, testified that moments later, another defendant, Terence Lyons, insulted his heritage.

"You still here?" Singh quoted Lyons as saying. "Go to your home. Go to your country." I said, "Hey ... this is my country. This is my home, too."

The defendants began punching Singh before turning their attention to Bammi, 55, who was beaten into unconsciousness, Singh testified.

The defendants are Lyons, 54, of Elmont; Meehan, 25, of Woodhaven; and Salvatore Maceli, 27, his brother, Nicholas Maceli, 23, and their stepfather, Victor Consentino, 60, all of Valley Stream.

They are charged with second-degree assault as a hate crime, second-degree assault and second-degree harassment. If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison.

Defense attorneys conceded that the incident ensued from an inappropriate remark. But they contend the Sikh men were responsible for escalating the situation into a fight.

The attorneys said, for example, that even before the first punch was thrown, Singh refused to allow Consentino and Lyons to leave the area because he had called 911.

The attorneys also contend that their clients had no hateful intent during the incident.

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