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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Film Student Charged in Hate Crime Against Muslim Cabbie Denied Bail, For Now (USA)

The film student charged with slashing a Muslim cab driver in an apparent hate crime told police he stabbed  the man in self defense, prosecutors said Monday.

Michael Enright, a 21-year-old School of Visual Arts student from Westchester, told police that cabbie Ahmed Sharif, 43, of Queens, had tried to rob him after he got into his taxi following a booze-fueled night last month.

"That man just tried to rob me," Enright told police, prosecutors said at his bail hearing. "I had to defend myself."

Enright faces a minimum of eight years in prison on attempted murder and assault as a hate crime charges for allegedly stabbing Sharif after asking the driver whether he was a Muslim.

Lawrence Fisher, a lawyer for Enright, said that the SVA senior has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic alcoholism after a trip to Afghanistan to work on a student film about a high school buddy serving in the Marines.

"Due to his various problems related to post-traumatic stress and alcoholism, the jail setting is not the most beneifical for him," Fisher said. He asked for his client to be released on bail and into medical treatment.

Fisher said community members from Enright's hometown of Brewster, N.Y., were "shocked and alarmed to hear the news" of Enright's arrest.

Ten family members and colleagues showed up at the hearing to lend their support.

"He's a young man who didn't quite understand what he was getting into when he went to Afghanistan," Reeves Lehmann, the chair of SVA's film and video department who came to the hearing to back Enright, told reporters after the hearing.

Lehmann said he would readmit Enright to the department if the were released on bail.

But prosecutors said Enright's alleged crime was too violent to consider releasing him on a $250,000 bail.

"What we have here is a very heinous, violent crime in which this defendant, in a very personal way, tried to end a life of this innocent cab driver," said Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta.