FOLEY -- A Willmar man accused of choking a St. Cloud taxi driver because he is Muslim has pleaded guilty. Twenty-three-year-old Zachary DeGraw pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of 5th degree assault. As part of the plea agreement, a charge of assault motivated by bias and another 5th degree assault charge were dismissed.

Court records show the cab driver, who is of Somali descent, was taking DeGraw and a female passenger from a downtown bar to Rollie’s Bar in the early morning hours of March 25th when the assault took place.

DeGraw was in the back seat when he reached forward, put his arm around the driver’s neck and began choking him. The driver was swerving from lane to lane on Highway 23 before slamming on the brakes and coming to a stop. He was able to break free and call for help.

A Benton County Sheriff’s deputy responded and interviewed the female passenger who allegedly told the deputy DeGraw was a racist and confirmed he had choked the driver. According to the criminal complaint, when the deputy confronted DeGraw about the incident he told the officer “Well he is Muslim”, but denied choking the driver.

DeGraw faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine when he's sentenced July 13th.

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