New York man gets nearly 10 year-term for hate crime against cabbie

Story highlights

  • Defendant took responsibility, apologized, his lawyer says
  • Michael Enright, 24, pleaded guilty two weeks ago to hate crime charges
  • Taxi driver Ahmed Sharif was slashed on his neck, face, shoulder and hand in 2010
  • Enright's lawyer has said his client suffered from alcoholism and post-traumatic stress
A man who stabbed a New York City taxi driver three years ago after asking whether he was Muslim will serve 9½ years in prison.
Michael Enright, 24, pleaded guilty two weeks ago to attempted murder in the second degree as a hate crime and assault in the first degree as a hate crime, the New York Supreme Court clerk's office said.
Enright was sentenced Tuesday. In addition to his prison term, he must serve five years of post-release supervision, the clerk's office said.
"This was a horrendous crime against an innocent New Yorker. The victim, a native of Bangladesh and the father of four children, has been working and living in our diverse city for nearly three decades. There is no place for bigotry in New York City." District Attorney Cyrus Vance said at Enright's guilty plea proceeding.
The taxi driver, Ahmed Sharif, suffered slashes across the neck, face, shoulder and hand in the August 2010 attack, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said.
Enright made an eloquent statement to the court, blaming himself, taking responsibility for the crime and apologizing to the victim, his lawyer, Lawrence Fisher, told CNN on Wednesday.
Fisher said he thought the sentence was "severe" for a case in which the victim was released from the hospital within hours.
Prosecutors originally recommended 18 years in jail for Enright before dropping it to 9½ years. The minimum sentence is eight years, according to his lawyer.
In previous court appearances, Enright's lawyer said his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.
After being released on bond with an ankle bracelet, Enright successfully completed both in- and out-patient alcohol rehabilitation, performed community service projects and attended Alcoholics Anonymous, where he became a lecturer and sponsor, according to Fisher.
"He's made great strides and has been clean and sober for over two years since he's been released," Fisher said.
According to Bhairavi Desai of the Taxi Workers Alliance, Enright, then 21, allegedly began conversing with Sharif before asking whether he was Muslim. Enright then cursed and allegedly shouted, "Assalamu alaikum, consider this a checkpoint."
"Assalamu alaikum" is an Arabic greeting that means "peace be upon you."
Sharif was then stabbed. Bleeding profusely, he stumbled out of his taxi and managed to flag down a police officer who arrested Enright, the union representative said.
Enright, who was a student at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, had shot a film on American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, said the director of Intersections International, a nonprofit group that partially funded the trip.
Enright was intoxicated the night of the arrest, according to police, who found an empty bottle of scotch in his backpack.
The attack occurred amid public debate over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque to be called Park51 two blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.