Springfield man admits guilt in Haitian hate crimes

A Springfield man has admitted in local and federal courts to committing crimes against at least eight Haitian nationals living in the city.

Izaye Eubanks, 21, pleaded guilty in both U.S. District Court and Clark County Common Pleas Court to charges stemming from assaults, robberies and a carjacking of Haitian individuals because of the victims’ actual and perceived national origin. The crimes occurred in January and February this year.

“This defendant is being held accountable for repeatedly assaulting and robbing members of the Haitian community in Springfield, Ohio, because of their national origin,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a release.

“Attacks like these, where a group of individuals is singled out and targeted for violent assaultive conduct because of who they are, will not be tolerated,” Clarke said. “The Justice Department will continue to enforce our federal criminal civil rights laws and prosecute those who commit violent, bias-motivated crimes in our country.”

Investigators said Eubanks traveled through Springfield looking for individuals he believed were from Haiti and would then attack, usually punching them and knocking them to the ground before robbing them of their money, cellphones, a vehicle and other personal belongings.

“Hate and discrimination have never had a place in our society. They have no place today,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said in the release. “We will continue to prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.”

The investigation detailed an incident on Jan. 29 in which Eubanks assaulted and robbed a victim who was walking to wire $300 in cash to his mother in Haiti. Eubanks punched the victim in the back of the head and neck, causing him to briefly black out, then robbed the victim of his cash, cell phone and ATM cards, investigators said.

The same day, Eubanks assaulted a victim as he left Friendly’s Bakery, a Haitian market. He grabbed the victim by his shirt, pulled him out of his vehicle, and punched him in the face before stealing the victim’s vehicle.

Days later, on Feb. 1, Eubanks directed juveniles to help him complete four separate attacks on five victims.

“These hate crimes impacted more than just the direct victims of the attacks, they threatened and intimidated the larger immigrant community,” FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers said in the release. “Because hate crimes have such a wide-ranging impact, investigating these crimes is a very high priority for the FBI.”

Eubanks was charged federally by a bill of information on Aug. 16, and a prison sentence of 20 years has been recommended in the federal case.

In the local plea agreement, Eubanks pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree felonious robbery and will serve four years in prison for each robbery count concurrently to the federal case.

>> Residents ask city leaders about immigration after deadly school bus crash

Springfield has seen a sharp increase in Haitian immigrants in the last five years. Estimates have varied widely, from 5,000 to 10,000 people.

Federal officials said those who have information about or believe they have been a victim of a similar attack should call the FBI tip line at 1-800-Call-FBI.