Palm Harbor man guilty of hate crime for punching Black driver, giving Nazi salute in racist road rage attack

(Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)

A Palm Harbor man has been convicted of a federal hate crime for a 2021 road rage attack on a Black driver and his family on a Pinellas County road.

Court documents show a jury in Tampa convicted Jordan Patrick Leahy, 29, on Wednesday of interfering for racially-motivated reasons with the motorist's right to use the street.

Trial evidence showed that on Aug. 8, 2021, Leahy pulled alongside the Black motorist, identified only as J.T., who was driving on Bryan Dairy Road with his 4-year-old daughter and girlfriend. Prosecutors said Leahy pretended to "shoot" at J.T.'s vehicle with hand gestures and swerved into J.T.'s lane, trying to run the family's car off of the road because of their race. Leahy pursued them for over a mile before sideswiping their vehicle. 

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Leahy fled the scene of the accident but stopped at the next red light. When J.T. pulled up behind Leahy's vehicle, prosecutors said Leahy got out of his car and stormed at the victim, yelling racial slurs and at one point making a Nazi salute, according to investigators.

Leahy then reportedly punched J.T. before the victim was able to subdue him. When Pinellas sheriff's deputies arrived, prosecutors say Leahy made several racially-motivated comments such as saying Black people need to be kept "in their areas."

While in custody, Leahy told deputies he wanted to shoot 60 to 70 people — a statement that prompted him to be charged with threatening to commit a mass shooting in addition to DUI and felony battery.

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"No one should be targeted, threatened, intimidated or assaulted because of their race," U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg said in a news release. "The defendant in this case acted upon his bigoted beliefs and put an entire family and others’ safety at risk."

Leahy faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence and up to $250,000 in fines. A sentencing date has not yet been set.