Man pleads guilty to attacking Muslim politician outside prayer meeting in US

Man pleads guilty to attacking Muslim politician outside prayer meeting in US

A man who attacked a Muslim politician outside a prayer service in Connecticut pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault and other crimes in a plea deal that calls for a five-year prison sentence.

Andrey Desmond, 30, appeared in Hartford Superior Court in connection with the June 2023 assault on Representative Maryam Khan, the first Muslim to serve in the state House of Representatives. He pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree sexual assault, attempted first-degree strangulation and risk of injury to a minor — all felonies, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported.

Khan’s lawyer, Aaron Romano, told a judge that Khan believed Desmond deserved a longer prison sentence given how serious the attack was. Khan attended the hearing but did not comment afterward.

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“Representative Khan is requesting privacy at this time to process today’s events, but she looks forward to her attacker’s sentencing on June 4,” Romano said in a statement later in the day.

Desmond’s lawyer, public defender John Stawicki, told Judge David Gold that Desmond wanted to apologise to Khan. Desmond held off on apologising after Gold warned that anything he said could be used against him if the plea agreement ended up being cancelled for any reason.

The plea deal would also require Desmond, after the prison term, to register as a sex offender, undergo counselling and take his medication.

Court records show Desmond, who was living in New Britain, has a history of mental illness. After a court-ordered evaluation, he was found competent to stand trial.

Khan, a Democrat, had called for hate crime charges. She was attacked while attending a service at the XL Centre arena in Hartford with her family to mark Eid al-Adha, the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca.

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She has said she and her family, including her 15-year-old daughter, were taking photos outside the arena when Desmond approached and said he “intended to have sexual relations” with one of them.

Desmond then followed them inside, and Khan said he started to pursue her in particular, grabbing at her face and shirt and demanding a kiss.

He followed her back outside and tried to grab her face again, she said, and became angry when she “dodged him.” She said he slapped her across the face and later put her in a “chokehold,” holding up his hand and mimicking having a gun before slamming her into the ground.

Khan said she was diagnosed with a concussion and injured her right arm and shoulder.

The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify people who report attempted sexual assaults unless they publicly identify themselves, as Khan has done.

Desmond was chased down and held by two bystanders until police arrived and arrested him. One of the bystanders, a military veteran, was charged with assault and has applied for a pretrial diversion program that could erase the charge.

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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