PORTLAND, Maine — An all-white jury found Maurice Diggins, 38, of Biddeford, guilty Tuesday on two counts of assault and one count of conspiracy under a federal hate crimes act that tested the strength of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws for the first time in Maine.
Diggins faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for the two counts of assault, and up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy charge.
During the three-day trial, federal prosecutors convinced the jury that Diggins was motivated by racial prejudice in two separate assaults against black men in April 2018, which the defendant committed with his 29-year-old nephew, Dusty Leo.
A recording of a phone call Diggins made to his wife while he was in custody captured him saying that he would be acquitted by a jury in a predominantly white state like Maine.
“No 12 people are going to find me guilty,” Diggins said, referring to the jury. “Because we’re in Maine.”
Diggins argued that “Maine people want the streets to be safe,” citing former Gov. Paul LePage, who once claimed during a 2016 town hall meeting that black men were “up here impregnating our women and selling our kids drugs.”
Testimony during the trial also established that Diggins was known to have tattoos of several racist symbols used by Nazis during the Third Reich and a 14-word phrase used by white supremacists that has been classified as hate speech.
The prosecution set out to prove that Diggins “knowingly and unlawfully” caused harm and that the assaults were racially motivated beyond reasonable doubt.
“Today’s conviction demonstrates that the Department of Justice will not tolerate horrific racially-motivated attacks,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division in a prepared statement. “The jury’s verdict reflects the sad fact that racism and violence remain linked more than 150 years after our nation abolished slavery.”
The coordinated assaults took place in the early morning of April 15, 2018, when Diggins and Leo coordinated attacks on black men in Portland and Biddeford without provocation, shouting racial slurs at each of them. Each attack broke the victim’s jaw, requiring them to undergo emergency facial surgery which left their mouths wired shut for a month and caused them to miss substantial amounts of work.
Leo pleaded guilty on February 25, admitting that he conspired to commit hate crimes and that he committed the hate crime against the victim in Biddeford.
They will be sentenced after the preparation of pre-sentence investigation reports by the U.S. Probation Office.
The Biddeford Police Department and the FBI investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Sawyer and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Timothy Visser.