HOUSTON - A white Houston-area man accused of sucker-punching an elderly black man has pleaded not guilty to a federal hate crime charge.
Conrad Barrett, 27, entered his plea during a brief arraignment hearing Thursday in Houston federal court.
Investigators say Barrett broke the 79-year-old victim's jaw in two places in a Nov. 24 attack in the Houston suburb of Katy. They say he laughed and shouted "knockout" as the man fell to the ground.
Investigators say Barrett recorded the attack using his cellphone.
Authorities learned of the case because Barrett allegedly showed the video on the night of the attack to an off-duty arson investigator he had just met at a restaurant in nearby Folshear. According to a criminal complaint, Barrett asked the off-duty investigator and the woman with the investigator if they knew about the knockout game. He told them he played earlier that day, then showed them the video, prosecutors allege.
The "game," which has seen victims across the nation, involves an attacker trying to knock out a victim with one punch.
The investigator flagged down a uniformed officer across the street and led him to Barrett.
The 27-year-old was arrested Dec. 26 and indicted last week. He remains in custody.
During the investigation, authorities retrieved multiple videos from Barrett’s phone, including some in which he uses racial epithets and talks about trying to work up the courage to play the knockout game, court documents say. According to one, Barrett said: “That plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?”
George Parnham, Barrett's attorney, says his client has a bipolar disorder and was off his medication when the attack happened.
Barrett's trial is scheduled for March 10. If convicted of the hate crime charge, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $250,000.