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Coram man gets 10 years for 2010 hate crime

Brian J. Karris, 36, of Coram, alongside his

Brian J. Karris, 36, of Coram, alongside his lawyer in Riverhead Criminal Court, shortly before being sentenced for a 2010 hate crime against a disabled African-American at a bus stop in Port Jefferson Station. (Dec. 14, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A Coram man convicted of a hate crime for beating another man because he is a mentally disabled black man was sentenced Friday to a decade in prison.

Brian J. Karris, 36, tried to convince the judge that it wasn't hate that motivated him to punch Joseph King, 49, in the face then twice stomp on the unconscious man's head.

To support his assertion, Karris told Suffolk County Court Judge Gary J. Weber in Riverhead one of his friends is black and that he used to date black women.

"I was never a bigot," Karris said.

Karris did not mention why he beat King -- who prosecutors said has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old -- on June 16, 2010, as King was heading home from his job at a South Shore McDonald's, where he still works sweeping floors and wiping tables.

Weber didn't address Karris' claim that he is not a racist and instead focused on Karris' penchant for violence, saying Karris has a history of beating up people, including an ex-girlfriend.

"I basically think that you're a dangerous person," Weber said before he sentenced Karris.

In 2003, Karris was convicted of assault for smashing a glass over a bartender's head after the bartender refused to serve Karris more drinks, Assistant District Attorney Ray Varuolo of the Suffolk major crime bureau said.

The attack on King took place at the corner of Cherub Lane and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, Varuolo said, while King was waiting for a second bus to take him to the Rocky Point home where he lives with a legal guardian.

The attack, which Varuolo described as "horrific," left King with multiple skull fractures. King was in a medically induced coma for seven days. The attack also left King with a "balancing issue" that forced him to curtail his work hours, Varuolo said.

"Karris told police he had no use for King because he's black and he's retarded," Varuolo said.

Karris opted for a trial by Weber instead of a trial by jurors, and was convicted of second-degree assault as a hate crime. The judge, however, found Karris not guilty of first-degree attempted robbery and first-degree assault. Varuolo said an eyewitness saw Karris rummage through King's pockets but did not see Karris steal anything from him.

King was not in court Friday for the sentencing.

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