Davis County prosecutors on Friday filed hate crime charges against a 25-year-old man who is accused of pointing a gun at and calling a Black driver the n-word.
The confrontation happened June 21 after the driver merged onto Interstate 15 in Davis County and accidentally cut off the suspect, according to court documents.
The suspect is accused of driving aggressively, including getting in front of the victim’s car and suddenly braking. At one point, court documents state, the suspect pulled alongside the victim’s car and brandished a handgun.
The 25-year-old also allegedly mouthed the n-word at the driver and held up a handwritten note that also had the n-word.
He was charged with two third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault and a traffic infraction for allegedly not signaling when slowing or stopping.
Charging documents note that prosecutors plan to argue the alleged acts constituted a hate crime and deserve a harsher sentence if the man is convicted.
Until 2019, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings wouldn’t have had the option to enhance the felony-level charges as a hate crime. Before Gov. Gary Herbert signed a new hate crimes bill into law, prosecutors could only enhance misdemeanor crimes.
The old law also didn’t designate protected classes.
Lawmakers had tried for years to change the then-toothless law, but it didn’t receive hearings in the 2017 or 2018 general session and failed in the Senate in 2016. Herbert signed it into law April 2, 2019, calling the occasion “historic.”