The hate crimes trial of a man accused of attacking black men in Biddeford and Portland in 2018 is set to begin Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland following multiple delays.

Maurice Diggins was supposed to go on trial Tuesday on two counts of committing a hate crime and another count of conspiracy to commit a hate crime. That start was delayed for an unexplained reason and there was no hearing Wednesday because the judge was ill, court authorities said.

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

A jury was chosen Monday, and a scheduling order issued Tuesday afternoon said the judge would deal with non-jury matters Thursday morning and then start the trial. Among the non-jury matters is a motion by defense lawyers to bar testimony on Diggins’ tattoos, and testimony from an expert who is expected to say that the tattoos – of swastikas, “SS” lightning bolts, “Dirty White Boys,” and the words “we must secure the existence of our people and future for white children” – are commonly displayed by white supremacists.

Diggins’ lawyer, however, argues that the tattoos weren’t visible during the two assaults at the center of the case, and that there is no evidence Diggins was a member of a white supremacist group.

Diggins’ nephew, Dusty Leo, was facing the same charges as his uncle. Both men are accused of assaulting a black man outside a bar in Portland in April 2018 and shouting racial epithets and then driving to Biddeford, and assaulting another black man and shouting racial epithets outside a convenience store. Both victims received broken jaws.

Leo pleaded guilty to two of the three counts against him last month. A plea agreement says Leo will not contest his sentence as long as it is for less than four years.

The two hate crime charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years each and the conspiracy charge calls for a maximum of five years. All three counts carry fines up to $250,000 each and a period of supervised release of up to three years.

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