A 26-year-old sailor who is accused of malicious harassment, a hate crime, for allegedly beating an immigrant taxi driver pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in King County Superior Court on Monday morning.
Jesse Fleming, whose bail was set at $50,000 earlier this month, will return to court on Tuesday morning to receive the conditions of his release, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege in court documents that Fleming beat the cab driver, an immigrant from Somalia, and told him to “go back to your own country” after a cab ride.
According to police, the 34-year-old cab driver picked up three men, including Fleming, and a woman in Belltown on Dec. 7.
The driver told police that one of the men, later identified as Fleming, became irritated over how long it took to process the credit card used to pay the fare, called the driver a “terrorist,” threatened to shoot him and then leaned across the seat and repeatedly punched him in the face, court documents say.
Police said the driver lost consciousness and his foot slipped off the brake, causing the taxi to roll downhill, strike several parked cars and hit the stairs of an apartment building. The attack continued, with two of the other male passengers joining in, according to the document.
The passengers fled when neighbors came out to investigate, but Fleming returned while police were there, court documents say.
Prosecutors said Fleming said he was on active duty in the Navy. Police said he acknowledged being involved, but claimed to have acted in self-defense.