Lashawn Marten, the man who punched and killed a New York commuter because he was white, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Tuesday.
Marten, aka Martin Redrick, was playing chess in Union Square Park on the afternoon of Sept. 4, 2013 when he got up after losing a series of games.
Shortly afterwards, Marten, who is black, got angry with the rush of commuters coming through the park and said he would punch out the next white person he saw.
That man was 62-year-old comic-enthusiast Jeffrey Babbitt.
Babbitt was a retired train conductor on his way to Forbidden Planet, his favorite comic shop, reported the New York Times. He lived with and cared for his 94-year-old mother in Brooklyn, visiting the comic shop frequently to get editions of his favorite comics, or to just get out of the house, his neighbor told the Times.
Marten punched Babbitt in the face, knocking him to the ground. Babbitt’s head hit the brick pathway and he lay bleeding in the park.
A white 19-year-old bystander tried to help Babbitt and Marten also punched him in the face, inflicting minor injuries.
When another 47-year-old white male bystander tried to help Babbitt, Marten punched him hard enough to knock him unconscious. The man suffered a broken rib and memory loss.
Babbitt was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he was declared clinically brain-dead. He died days later.
Only July 5, a New York Supreme Court jury found Marten guilty of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime, second degree assault as a hate crime and attempted assault as a hate crime.
His sentence, handed down Tuesday, was welcomed by prosecutors.
“One afternoon in crowded Union Square, Lashawn Marten made good on his threat to punch the next white person he saw, setting off a chain of events that left one man dead and two others wounded,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. in a statement released Tuesday.
“There is no justification for street violence of any kind, but street violence fueled by hatred and prejudice is particularly inexcusable. As the jury concluded, this was not a series of random attacks—Lashawn Marten targeted victims solely on the basis of their skin color.
“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we remain vigilant in protecting all New Yorkers from hate- and bias-fueled crimes.”
Vance called on the public to report any incidents of hate crimes.
Marten, who is now 44, had a history of violence and mental illness, friends and family told the Times.
“Everybody who knew him knew he was unpredictable and was going to snap one day,” former sister-in-law Scarlett Thomas, told the Times in 2013.
Marten had numerous run-ins with police and was arrested several times for incidents including assault and uttering threats.
Babbitt was the sole caregiver for his mother after his sister died from cancer two years earlier. A store manager who had known Babbitt for years told the Times that employees were concerned about Babbitt’s mother and had set up a fund to help with continuing to look after her.