PROVO — Two brothers from Payson were formally charged Tuesday with a hate crime in the attack of a black Latter-day Saint missionary.
Sebastian Francis West, 19, and Malachi Bay West, 20, are each charged in 4th District Court with assault, a third-degree felony.
Prosecutors are seeking gang and hate crime enhancements on the potential penalty if the men are convicted, according to court documents.
On Jan. 28, two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were going to a home in Payson to teach when they encountered a group of six to seven men, including the West brothers, who were threatening one of the residents in the front yard, according to charging documents.
“The suspects were in dark hoodies and bandanas covered the lower halves of their faces. One of the missionaries, who is Panamanian and dark-skinned, attempted to intervene and asked the suspects to leave,” the charges state.
The black missionary then took out his cellphone to call police, but one of the men in the group took it and threw it across the street, according to charging documents.
“When victim retrieved the phone, the group redirected their attention toward him — they swore and yelled at victim, repeatedly called him a (racial slur) and told him to go back to where he came from,” the charges state.
The racial slur the men used multiple times was the N-word, according to police.
The men then brandished brass knuckles, and intimidated the missionary as he tried to go into the house, according to the charges.
“As victim attempted to retreat back to the residence, one of the suspects dove at his feet, attempting to tackle him, while another punched victim in the head. At that point, he was attacked by all of the suspects. Victim was punched and kicked repeatedly by the group, and eventually tackled to the ground,” the charges state.
While struggling on the ground with the missionary, the group repeatedly used the racial slur while making statements such as, “This is our town,” “This is our turf,” “Go back to slavery” and “Go home you stupid (racial slur),” the charges state.
The group also called the missionary “church boy” and “told him to ‘go back to Bible school you filthy, stupid (racial slur).’ Victim sustained numerous injuries, including to his lips, head, shoulder, ribs and forehead,” investigators wrote in the charging documents.
During the assault, one of the men called out to another man in the group, using the name “Malachi,” the charges state.
“Familiar with a young man by the name of ‘Malachi,’ police presented several lineups to victim, two of which included a photo of defendants. Victim picked each defendant out of their respective lineup,” according to the court documents.
Sebastian West is also charged in a separate criminal case with a violent assault on Jan. 9 in Payson Canyon.
In that case, Sebastian West and at least two others slammed a man’s head against a car, punched and kicked him in the head, resulting in several of the victim’s teeth being knocked loose, according to charging documents.
Sebastian West and Wyatt Jake Smith, 18, of Payson, are each charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, in that case.
At the time of the Jan. 9 assault, West was already on probation after being convicted a month earlier in Payson Justice Court of assault, a class B misdemeanor, in a domestic violence case, according to court records.
After his arrest in connection with the Payson Canyon incident, West posted bail on Jan. 22 — just six days before the attack on the missionary.
In court Tuesday on his Payson Canyon case, West told 4th District Judge James Brady, “I’m homeless right now” while adding he couldn’t remember the last time he was employed. West claimed he had a job interview the same day he was arrested for the missionary assault case.
Deputy Utah County attorney Greg Johnson told Brady in court Tuesday, “We believe he does pose a substantial danger to the community,” while seeking to have West held without bail.
A hearing in that case to decide bail will be held March 3. Bail in the missionary case was initially set at $5,000 for both brothers.
In April, Gov. Gary Herbert signed a hate crime bill into law aimed at putting more power into state penalties when victims are targeted because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.
Contributing: Tad Walch