Man who attacked Muslim lawmaker in Connecticut sentenced to 5 years in prison

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A man who attacked a Muslim state representative outside a prayer service in Connecticut was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for attempted sexual assault and other crimes, a punishment the lawmaker previously said was too lenient.

Andrey Desmond, 31, was sentenced in Hartford Superior Court in connection with the June 2023 assault on Rep. Maryam Khan, the first Muslim to serve in the state House of Representatives. Desmond pleaded guilty in April to attempted third-degree sexual assault, attempted first-degree strangulation and risk of injury to a minor — all felonies.

After the prison time, Desmond must serve parole, register as a sex offender and receive mental health treatment.

Desmond’s public defender, John Stawicki, said in court that Desmond regretted his actions and has struggled with mental illness, including schizophrenia. Desmond said the “events that happened were out of my control. I didn’t have any self-control.”

Khan, a Democrat from the Hartford suburb of Windsor, said in a statement that the assault “highlighted serious gaps in our mental health care system and victim safety and protection.”

“What happened to me just over a year ago was tragic and will leave a mark on my life and all of those involved,” Khan said. “But I am proud to see some semblance of justice today. It is important to note that what occurred that day is far more common than we would care to admit.”

Court records show Desmond, who was living in New Britain, has a history of mental illness. After a court-ordered evaluation, he was found competent to stand trial.

Khan had called for hate crime charges. She was attacked after attending a service at the XL Center arena in Hartford with her family to mark Eid al-Adha, the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca.

She has said she and her family, including her 15-year-old daughter, were taking photos outside the arena when Desmond approached and said he “intended to have sexual relations” with one of them.

Desmond then followed them inside, and Khan said he started to pursue her in particular, grabbing at her face and shirt and demanding a kiss. He followed her back outside and tried to grab her face again, she said, and became angry when she “dodged him.” She said he slapped her across the face and later put her in a “chokehold,” holding up his hand and mimicking having a gun before slamming her into the ground.

Khan said she was diagnosed with a concussion and injured her right arm and shoulder.

The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify people who report attempted sexual assaults unless they publicly identify themselves, as Khan has done.

Desmond was chased down and held by two bystanders until police arrived and arrested him. One of the bystanders, a military veteran, was charged with misdemeanor assault and was approved for a pretrial diversion program that will erase the charge.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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