Two white men from Biddeford have been indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime charges for allegedly assaulting a black man outside a city convenience store while shouting a racial epithet.

Maurice Diggins, left, and Dusty Leo York County Jail photos

Maurice Diggins, 34, and Dusty Leo, 27, are each charged with a hate crime and conspiracy to commit a hate crime, and are being held after making a first appearance in federal court Monday.

Both men’s attorneys say their clients deny the charges, and each will have bail hearings in the coming days.

The case triggered an outcry from activists who planned a rally after the assault in a show of solidarity against racism.

According to the indictment, Diggins and Leo were together in a pickup truck when they drove at high speed into the parking lot of 7-Eleven on April 15 and shouted at an African-American man who was walking toward the store entrance.

“Who you eyeballing, (racial slur)?” Diggins shouted, according to court records. Diggins then stopped the truck, got out and approached the man, repeating his question.

Diggins then circled the man, who is referred to as D.M. throughout the indictment. While Diggins was between the man and the store entrance with his back to the truck, Leo got out of the vehicle and struck the man on the head.

The victim then staggered backward, and when Diggins approached, the victim fell to the ground. As he got to his feet and began running away, Leo followed him on foot.

“The defendants shouted words to the effect of ‘Go on, run, (racial slur),” prosecutors allege in the indictment.

Diggins and Leo then got back into the truck and drove after the victim, again shouting the racial epithet, it says.

The man’s jaw was broken during the encounter and he hit his head on the pavement when he fell to the ground. He escaped by running down a side alley.

Leo’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, said her client vehemently and adamantly denies the charges.

“(Leo) was not involved in any hate crimes, and we’ll let the criminal justice system properly run its course,” Fairfield said.

Randall Bates, the attorney for Diggins, said his client will fight the charges going forward.

“(Diggins) adamantly denies any wrongdoing and is looking forward to being exonerated after his trial,” Bates said in an email message.

Each man faces up to 10 years in prison for the hate crime charge and five years in prison on the conspiracy, and $250,000 in fines for each count, according to federal court records unsealed Monday.

Each was initially charged in state court with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of interfering with someone’s constitutional rights, and also faced a civil rights complaint filed by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Neither of the men appeared for the civil case and a judge issued a permanent injunction ordering both of them to not have any further contact with the victim or face up to 364 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.

The aggravated assault charges are Class B felonies punishable by up to 10 years in state prison and a $20,000 fine, and remain pending in York County Superior Court.

Leo has a criminal record including convictions for carrying a concealed weapon, trafficking in dangerous knives and two OUIs, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

Diggins has an extensive criminal history that began in 2003 and includes multiple convictions for theft and burglary, and has been in and out of state prison, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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