Colorado man pleads guilty to 2019 federal hate crime committed against Black Ontario resident

Nolan Levi Strauss, 27, pleads guilty for attacking man in Ontario on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy Malheur County Sheriff’s Office)

Nolan L. Strauss, a trucker driver once employed by May Trucking, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges last week for the attempted murder of Ontario man Ronnell T. Hughes.

He faces a potential life sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9 at the U.S. District Court in Eugene.

According to a police affidavit, Strauss stabbed Hughes twice in the neck during an unprovoked attack on the morning of Dec. 21, 2019, at the Pilot Travel Center on East Idaho Avenue in Ontario.

Court documents stated that it was supposed to be Hughes’ first day of a part-time job at the Travel Center’s adjoining Arby’s fast-food restaurant when Strauss entered the business and approached Hughes from behind, stabbing him.

A struggle between the two men then ensued until Hughes was finally able to break free and run to the other side of the restaurant, where he collapsed on the floor. A maintenance worker at the gas station restrained Strauss’s hands behind his back with belt until police arrived, according to court records.

The maintenance worker asked Strauss why he stabbed Hughes.

“Because he was Black,” Strauss said. “And I don’t like Black people.”

Strauss later admitted to Oregon State Police detectives that he had chosen Hughes at “random due to the color of his skin” and that he “hates black people,” according to a police affidavit. Strauss also told the detectives that his “intent was to kill” the victim.

Hughes was flow to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise where he underwent hours of surgery and was placed into a medically induced coma, according to his girlfriend, Nikita Apodaca. He was released from the hospital right before Christmas.

“This crime serves as a horrifying reminder that racism and bigotry still exist and threaten the safety of communities of color. Hate crimes not only hurt victims, but spread fear across entire communities,” according to a statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of Oregon. “This conviction should send a strong message that federal law enforcement will not tolerate hate-motivated acts of violence and will move swiftly to hold those responsible accountable.”

Strauss, who was arrested for assaulting a police officer in Nebraska in 2017, now faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a federal prison, or at least a significant amount of it.

“The defendant is being held accountable for his vicious, racially-motivated attack on a Black man who was targeted because of the color of his skin,” said Kristen Clarke, an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division “Racially motivated acts of violence must not be tolerated in our country today.”

PRIOR COVERAGE: Colorado man accused of Ontario stabbed was convicted in 2017 assault


News tip? Contact multimedia journalist Austin Johnson: [email protected] or (541) 784-7151

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