Group wants hate crime charges for woman in Applebee's attack


The Minnesota chapter of a national Muslim civil rights group wants Jodie Burchard-Risch – who's accused of attacking a woman for speaking in her native language – charged with a hate crime.

KSTP reports that the 43-year-old Ramsey resident was dining at the Coon Rapids Applebee's with her husband on Friday when she overheard the woman, sitting in a nearby booth with her family, talking in a non-English language.

A criminal complaint says Burchard-Risch began to yell at Asma Jama, who'd been speaking Swahili. Restaurant staff tried to get Burchard-Risch to leave, but she refused, then smashed a beer mug across the victim’s face before fleeing, according to the WCCO.

Burchard-Risch was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with third-degree assault. But the Minnesota Council on Islamic-American Relations says she should face hate-crime charges:

“The current charge is insufficient to communicate the seriousness of and possible bias motive for the alleged attack,” said group Executive Director Jaylani Hussein on Friday, according to the Star Tribune.

As WCCO explains, if a crime (such as assault) is found by prosecutors to be racially motivated, it can result in enhanced charges for a defendant – upgrading them from "gross misdemeanor" to "felony" in some cases – under Minnesota law.

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Anoka County authorities told the Star Tribune they are "absolutely considering additional charges" against Burchard-Risch.

In the meantime, Jama is picking up the pieces after the incident.

"I was sitting turned around like this and all of a sudden I feel something thrown on my face. Boom! My cousin started screaming and everyone wanted to run away," she explained to FOX 9.

Jama suffered deep cuts on her nose, right eyebrow and lower lip and needed 15 stitches.

"I've lived in Minnesota for 15 years, never had anyone even look at me weird for not speaking English and wearing a Hijab," Jama told the station.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Jama pay for her medical expenses. As of Friday afternoon, it had collected more than $4,700. The fundraising goal is $5,000.

In 2011, Burchard-Risch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, according to court records. Her next court appearance in relation to the Friday incident will be Dec. 7.

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