SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Two men out of Payson who beat a black missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2020 are now facing federal hate crime charges as prosecutors are calling the attack racially motivated.
In January 2020, Nathan Thomas and Sebastian West, both now 22, assaulted a black Panamanian LDS missionary while he was on the way to teach a family in the area with his white companion.
Thomas and West were part of a larger group of six that approached the two missionaries near 200 North and 100 East in Payson. Thomas and West were among those that were allegedly yelling racial slurs toward the black missionary. Charging documents said the group cussed at the missionary, made fun of his religion, and told him to “get out of their ‘hood'” and to go back to where he “came from.”
After the verbal assault, the group held down the missionary and attacked, according to court documents. Police reported that Thomas and West both shoved the victim to the ground, punched him in the head and face, and kicked him in the torso.
According to a police report at the time of the assault, the group directed their verbal assault at the black missionary and ignored the white missionary throughout the confrontation.
Thomas and West were both convicted of the assault through a Utah State court.
Thomas was found guilty in December 2020 of misdemeanor assault. He was sentenced to 180 in jail with 45 days credit for time served.
West was found guilty of third-degree felony assault though had his prison time suspended. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail with a 209-day credit for time served. West was also placed on probation for 48 months.
Now, the United States District Court of Utah has filed federal hate crime charges for the assault.
According to United States Code, a federal hate crime is an offense involving actual perceived race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Prosecutors claim the assault was racially motivated as the black missionary was specifically targeted and called racial slurs while the assaulting group ignored the white missionary.
If convicted, Thomas and West could face up to 10 years in prison for their part in the assault.
Charges are allegations only. All arrested persons are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.