A Biddeford man was sentenced Friday to three years in federal prison for his role in two 2018 attacks against Black men in Portland and Biddeford that were deemed federal hate crimes.
Dusty W. Leo, 30, who is white, pleaded guilty on Feb. 25, 2020, to one count each of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the commission of a hate crime.
By pleading guilty, he admitted that he conspired with his uncle, Maurice Diggins, 37, of Biddeford to attack the men without provocation while shouting racial slurs at them in the early morning hours of April 15, 2018.
The victims’ jaws were broken and they required emergency surgery that left their mouths wired shut for a month and caused them to miss work, according to court documents.
The cases against Leo and his uncle mark the first time the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act has led to convictions in Maine since it was adopted in 2009.
Leo’s attorney, Amy Fairfield of Lyman, called the case tragic for the victims and her client in her sentencing memorandum.
“First, it is tragic for what the victims endured,” she said. “The pain, convalescence, aggravation, humiliation, endurance, and patience it has taken from [the victims] is unimaginable. Nothing diminishes from the gravity and seriousness of their plight and the plight of their families and loved ones. The impact of this case on Dusty’s life is also tragic.”
Fairfield argued that Leo was influenced greatly by his uncle. She urged the judge to sentence Leo to nine months and a day in prison.
Diggins was found guilty by an all-white jury last year and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is incarcerated at a maximum security penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. He is expected to be released in early 2027, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
In his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Leo waived his right to appeal his sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston if it was for less than four years in prison.
Leo faced up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to 10 years in prison on the aiding and abetting charge. He faced fines of up to $250,000 on each count.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Leo’s recommended sentence was between 37 and 46 months.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced Leo and Diggins each to three years of supervised release following their incarceration. She ordered Leo to report to the facility identified by the Bureau of Prisons on Nov 10.
Torresen also ordered the men to pay more than $15,000 in restitution to the victims.
Recently released FBI data showed that hate crime incidents are on the rise in Maine and the United States.
In 2020, 83 hate crime incidents were reported to law enforcement agencies in Maine, four times more than the 19 reported in 2019. There were also more hate crimes in 2020 than in the previous three years combined.
Hate crimes against Black people and members of the LGBTQ community were the most prevalent. There were 32 reported incidents involving anti-Black or anti-African American bias, and 29 that involved anti-LGBTQ bias, according to the data.
While Maine’s population has grown more diverse over the past decade, it is still the whitest state in the U.S.