Conrad Alvin Barrett, the white 27-year-old Houston area man charged with a hate crime in a knockout game attack has been denied bail. He is charged with a federal hate crime after allegedly attacking a 79-year-old black man.
Barrett is said to have sucker-punched the man in an attack inspired by the so-called “knockout game.” Charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Barrett could face a sentence of up to 10 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted.
Involvement of the U.S. Justice Department in this crime is an indication that the department is cracking down on hate crimes in an effort to reduce their number, but controversy has arisen due to their involvement in Barrett’s case since recent reports of knockout game attacks in Brooklyn, N.Y., have involved black attackers targeting Jews. Although one attacker in those incidents was charged with two felony hate crimes, there was no involvement by the Justice Department. Barrett’s attorney, George Parnham, believes that involvement of federal prosecutors in this case is simply because the evidence against Barrett seems to be clear-cut, ensuring them a winning result.
The “knockout” game has been in the media as of late, and describes an attack in which random victims are sucker-punched in an attempt to knock them unconscious simply for the amusement of others.
The U.S. Magistrate Judge who ultimately denied bail, Frances Stacy, expressed concern if Barrett, of Katy, Texas, was freed following the “vicious” hate crime he is alleged to have committed as part of the knockout game. Parnham reported after the hearing that the judge deemed Barrett a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Barrett’s victim, who remains unidentified, required surgery to repair his jaw, which was broken in two places in the attack. He also lost three teeth and spent four days recovering in the hospital.
Parnham argued that Barrett was bipolar and had not been taking his medication when he recorded the seemingly random Nov. 24 attack on his cell phone. Later that day, Barrett showed the cell phone video to a couple he had just met in a restaurant – not knowing that the man to whom he was bragging about the attack was a city arson investigator, who alerted a nearby police officer. The officer interviewed Barrett and ordered a search warrant for his cell phone.
According to prosecutors, the video is shown from the attacker’s point of view as he gets out of a vehicle and approaches the victim. The attacker asks the victim, “How’s it going, man?” The question is followed by the sound of a punch and the victim falling to the ground, at which point the attacker says, “knockout” and drives away.
Prosecutors in the case charge that Barrett targeted the victim because he was black, citing other videos on his phone in which he uses the ‘N-word’ and describes the victim as “the perfect African-American suspect” to target. Barrett’s motivation seems to be outlined by one question on the video: “The plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?”
Barrett was arrested on Thursday after authorities connected the attack to the cell phone video. Barrett’s next court date to answer the charges that he attacked his victim in a knockout game hate crime has not been set and he remains in jail after being denied bail.
By Jennifer Pfalz