Nov. 14—A Maine judge has ordered two men convicted of racially motivated hate crimes to pay one of their victims $1.2 million in damages.
Maurice Diggins and Dusty Leo, of Biddeford, were convicted in 2020 of attacking Daimon McCollum outside a gas station in Biddeford two years earlier. After taunting and shouting racial slurs at McCollum from their truck, Leo punched him from behind and broke his jaw. The two men were also convicted of attacking another Black man outside a bar in Portland.
McCollum sued Leo and Diggins in civil court last fall seeking damages to cover medical costs from the attack.
His attorney, Allyson Knowles, said McCollum required extensive surgery and that he is still emotionally distressed. He declined to comment on the judgement through his attorney.
Knowles said Superior Court Justice Richard Mulhern issued a default judgment in favor of her client in October after Leo and Diggins failed to meet pretrial discovery deadlines. Neither had an attorney, according to court records. Attorneys are not guaranteed in civil cases. Both men are still incarcerated in federal prisons.
In handwritten answers to the complaint last year, Diggins and Leo opposed the charges and requested that the court wait for them to either find attorneys or be released before scheduling pretrial discovery deadlines.
After a one-hour hearing on Thursday, Mulhern ordered them to pay $700,000 in punitive damages and $500,000 in compensatory damages. Diggins and Leo were not at the hearing.
Diggins had previously told the judge that he could not afford to pay any judgment against him.
"Your Honor, I have no means to pay Mr. McCollum if judgment is made in favor of Mr. McCollum," Diggins wrote in October 2022. He said he couldn't pay for his own lawyer and his commissary account was frozen because he couldn't afford the $15,000 he was ordered to pay in fines and restitution during the criminal trial.
"I'm sure you see my dilemma," Diggins wrote. "If I'm not able to respond, a judgment will be made in the plaintiff's favor, which seems very unfair considering I'm making the courts aware."
Knowles acknowledged that Diggins and Leo likely don't have $1.2 million, but that there are civil procedures for determining what assets defendants have, and what can be seized to make up for their payments.
Knowles said the $15,000 the men were ordered to pay in restitution three years ago barely scratches all that her client had to pay for medical expenses.
Diggins and his nephew Leo were outside a bar in Portland's Old Port shortly before 1 a.m. in April 2018 when Diggins hit a Black man and broke his jaw while using racial slurs, according to their federal indictment.
The men then drove back to Biddeford, court records state, where they confronted McCollum outside a 7-Eleven.
McCollum testified at Diggins' trial in March 2020 that he was out grabbing a snack after going out with his wife and children to celebrate his oldest child's college scholarship.
Jurors saw surveillance footage of Diggins and Leo shouting at McCollum. Diggins got out of the car, circled McCollum and stood between him and the door. Then Leo got out, approached McCollum from behind and hit him so hard that he fell to the ground.
When McCollum ran away, Leo chased after him and then he and his uncle followed him in their truck, shouting racist language at him.
McCollum's mouth was wired shut for a month. If he hadn't been able to escape, he testified, "I probably would have lost my life that night."
Diggins was convicted of two counts of committing a hate crime and one count of conspiracy. He lost his appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in June 2022. He is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison.
Leo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one county of committing a hate crime in February 2020 and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in September 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons reports his release date is scheduled for Nov. 22.
"The defendants' race-driven, unprovoked, and brutal attack on plaintiff was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of human decency and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," McCollum's civil complaint states.
The complaint also referenced Diggins' white supremacist tattoos, including swastikas, the initials "WPWW" for "White Pride World Wide," and the phrase "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for our white children."
The tattoos played a prominent role in his trial. An expert from the Anti-Defamation League testified that the tattoos meant Diggins was likely a white supremacist. His defense attorney argued Diggins had gotten them under the influence of other "hateful people" who Diggins had met in an earlier prison stint and that he was planning to get them removed.
At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen said Diggins told his wife in a recorded call from jail that many Mainers shared the same racist views, suggesting that would protect him from a guilty verdict.
"This type of offense takes an emotional toll on everyone of color," Torresen said. "It deeply affects their sense of security, of safety, in their homes and in the communities that they live in.
"And you damage the larger community as well, that such bigotry, such ignorance, such violence would be found in Biddeford, in Maine."