ANOKA, Minn. (KMSP) - A Ramsey, Minnesota woman pleaded guilty Monday morning to assaulting a customer at Applebee’s last October for speaking Swahili instead of English. Jodie Burchard-Risch, 44, admitted to the assault and admitted to insisting victim Asma Jama speak English and "go back to your country.”
Burchard-Risch, 44, and her husband were eating at the Applebee’s at 129th Street NW in Coon Rapids on Oct. 30, 2015. Witnesses said the couple was upset that Jama, who was sitting in a booth next to them, was speaking in a foreign language. According to the criminal complaint, an Applebee’s manager asked Burchard-Risch to leave the restaurant, but she refused. Burchard-Risch threw her drink on Jama and smashed her beer mug across Jama’s face in a “round house punch” motion before fleeing the scene. Jama suffered deep cuts on her nose and lower lip.
Jama said she is happy with Monday’s plea deal. She said the attack has taken a toll on her, and her fight for justice has been “personal.”
"I won't be the last victim if things don't change," Jama said.
"Emotionally that has destroyed me," Jama told Fox 9 last year. "I've lived in Minnesota for 15 years, never had anyone even look at me weird for not speaking English and wearing a Hijab. I've seen hate crimes on TV, but for it to happen to me -- I'm really a different person, I don't like it."
Burchard-Risch had no comment after the hearing. Her attorney said the deal reflects that both sides had issues with their case.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20. Under the plea agreement, Burchard-Risch will serve 180 days in jail and 5 years probation.