Minn. Woman Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Another Woman for Speaking Swahili 

In October 2015, Jodie Burchard-Risch smashed a glass beer mug in Asma Jama’s face, leaving her with a bloody nose, cuts above her eyebrow and a deep gash on her lower lip that required stitches. 

Jodie Burchard-Risch
Jodie Burchard-Risch Twitter

A Minnesota woman has taken a plea deal and pleaded guilty to assaulting another woman in a restaurant just because that woman was speaking Swahili, the Associated Press reports.

In October 2015, Jodie Burchard-Risch smashed her glass beer mug in Asma Jama’s face while at an Applebee’s in Coon Rapids, Minn., injuring Jama. According to the report, a criminal complaint noted that Burchard-Risch became upset prior to the physical attack because Jama was not speaking English.

According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, the attack left Jama concerned for her own safety. The 38-year-old avoided leaving her house for about seven months and avoided Anoka County, where the attack occurred, altogether until she stepped into the county courtroom to hear Burchard-Risch plead guilty.

Burchard-Risch, 44, pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree assault, AP notes. Per the plea deal, Burchard-Risch will face 180 days in jail, followed by five years’ probation. If she violates her probation, she could end up in prison for about three years.

Burchard-Risch will face sentencing in December.

The Tribune notes that Jama’s friends, who accompanied her to the courtroom, found Burchard-Risch’s tone at the hearing unnerving.

When asked whether she had attacked Jama because of her national origin, race or religion, the defendant reportedly answered in a clear voice, “Yep.”

“The only thing that makes me more mad was that [Burchard-Risch] was so smiley about it,” Asha Khuriye, who attended the hearing with Jama, told the news site. “You should feel shame for doing something like that.”

In any case, Jama said she was pretty pleased with the guilty plea.

Asma Jama
Asma Jama

“[The plea] means she admits that what she did was wrong,” Jama said at a news conference following the hearing. “I’m grateful and I’m glad.”

Jama, who lives in Minneapolis, was at the Coon Rapids restaurant with friends, speaking in Swahili. Burchard-Risch and her husband took it upon themselves to bother the group, taunting them, saying, “In America we speak English,” and “Go home!”

“We hadn’t even gotten our drinks yet,” Khadija Webi, who was with Jama back in October 2015, recalled.

Jama reportedly had confronted the couple when Burchard-Risch swung her mug into Jama’s face, bloodying her nose and leaving cuts above the younger woman’s eyebrow and a deep gash on her lower lip that needed stitches.

According to the Tribune, Jama has spent the past year speaking about her attack.

“To me, this was a personal fight,” she said. “This was a hate crime.”

“I finally feel comfortable when I go out now—as long as I’m not by myself,” Jama added. “And I wouldn’t walk into an Applebee’s by myself now—trust me.”

Read more at Talking Points Memo and the Minnesota Star Tribune