One defendant accused of racial slurs, assault of Black LDS missionary in Payson pleads guilty to reduced charges

Malachi Bay West. Photo: Utah County

SPANISH FORK, Utah, Sept. 16, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A Payson man charged with the Jan. 28 assault of a Black man serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Malachi West, 21, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to assault, a class B misdemeanor, in Provo’s 4th District Court. West did so as part of a plea agreement. He previously was charged with assault as a third-degree felony.

West is scheduled for a Sept. 29 sentencing date and faces a penalty of zero to 180 days in the Utah County Jail and a fee of $1,000.

On the night of the attack, Payson police responded to a report of an assault in the area of 285 N. 100 East.

The victim was with his companion and they were on their way to teach people in the area, a police statement says. Both the victim and his Caucasian companion were wearing white shirts, ties, slacks and had jackets on, with their name tags for the LDS Church clearly visible.

“The victim reported to officers, that as he and his companion walked towards the house of the family they were going to teach, they encountered roughly six individuals,” say the nearly identical probable cause statements for Malachi West and his co-defendants, Sebastian Francis West and Nathan Thomas.

From left: Sebastian Francis West, Malachi West and Nathan Thomas

The victim reported to officers that the suspects began the altercation with him by yelling and swearing at him. He said they repeatedly shouted a racial slur and told him to get out of their “hood” and go back to where he came from.

“The victim reported that one of the suspects approached him and took his cell phone out of his hand and threw it into the roadway, causing damage to the screen,” the statements said. “The victim said that when he walked over to retrieve his phone the suspects followed him and continued yelling racial slurs and swearing at him. The victim said that one of the suspects also said he was going to slit his mother’s throat.”

The victim said that the suspects also were mocking his religion, because he was clearly identifiable as a missionary for his church, by calling him a “church boy” and telling him to leave their neighborhood, the statement said.

The victim told officers that one of the suspects had a pair of brass knuckles and was wearing one on each hand. The brass knuckles reportedly had sharp spikes on the ends.

“The victim told officers that the suspect wearing the brass knuckles formed fists with his hands and presented his fists and brass knuckles toward the victim in a fighting or boxing-like stance,” the statement said. “The victim and his companion told officers that the suspects also encouraged each other while calling the victim racial slurs and swearing at him. The suspects did not at any point target the victim’s companion, who is Caucasian.”

The suspects then allegedly attacked the victim, punching him in the head and face, kicking him in the torso, and shoving him to the ground, the statements say. While the victim was on the ground, the suspects allegedly held onto his legs and waist in an attempt to keep him on the ground, the statements said.

The victim reportedly fought back, shoving the suspects off of him while trying to free himself from their hold, and the suspects fled the area. The victim reported that during the assault his prescription glasses valued at $1,000 were broken.

The case made worldwide headlines, and was widely viewed as a racial attack.

The LDS Church released a statement following the arrest of the second suspect.

“We are concerned about what happened to two of our missionaries serving in Payson, Utah, in January and are grateful they escaped serious harm,” said a statement released by spokesman Daniel Woodruff shortly after the assault. “Mission leaders have worked to provide them the care and support they need. We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement as they investigate this incident.”

Probable cause statements in the case made no mention of the Black missionary’s Caucasian companion suffering physical injuries, and said the Caucasian missionary was not targeted. The victim who was attacked identified himself to police as a black Panamanian.
Sebastian West, 19, stands accused of assault, a third-degree felony. His arraignment, delayed several times, is now set for Sept. 22, Tuesday of next week.
Nathan Thomas, 20, is also accused of assault, a third-degree felony. According to court records, he has been in and out of custody, and in July, had a warrant issued for his arrest.

Two other people, juveniles, were detained in the case, and have not been identified due to their ages.

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