A state court imposed a 20-year sentence for attempted murder on a defendant who stabbed Professor Dhammika “Dom” Dharmapala in the neck while shouting: “This is my goddammed country - I will kill you.” The attack occurred on December 7, 2011 at 5:40 a.m. when Professor Dharmapla was waiting for his commuter train to Chicago at the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign, Illinois. The defendant, a white male, circled Professor Dharmapala who is dark skinned and a native of Sri Lanka, and produced a utility knife quickly forcing Dharmapla to his knees. Dharmapala cried out to passerby that defendant had a knife and an Amtrak employee yelled at the defendant to stop. This allowed Dharmapala to get to his feet for a moment but the defendant immediately plunged the knife into Dharmapala’s neck. Bystanders subdued defendant and Dharmapala was treated on the spot by a bystander who was a doctor.
Dharmapala, a University of Illinois law professor, suffered cuts to his neck and finger in addition to the stab wound. The wounds required three surgeries and resulted in permanent nerve damage.
The defendant was housed in a mental institution for two years while he became fit to stand trial and the sentencing hearing took some 90 minutes. The judge, Judge Harry Clem, called the defendant’s actions “one of the most appalling crimes to ever come before this judge’s bench.” At sentencing, the investigating detective testified that defendant had told the detective that he was “sick of seeing his country run down” and defendant was “trying to protect the U.S. from the enemy.”
More than sixty supporters of Dharmapala’s attended the sentencing, including representatives from the University of Illinois at Champaign’s Office of General Counsel. Supporters of Dharmapala had attended every court proceeding in the last two years. Dharmapala read an eleven-minute victim impact statement in which he said:
"While any violent attack is traumatic, being targeted for killing because of the color of one's skin in exceptionally horrific. This is an immutable characteristic and an attack of this natures gives rise to constant anxiety about the possibility of future attacks,"
WGW represented Professor Dharmapala in this case. We applaud his courage.