An Orange County man who forcefully removed a convenience store clerk’s turban during a robbery was sentenced Monday to 240 days in jail.
Jacob Walton, 24, was initially charged in a robbery and elder abuse case with his mother. But she has since died.
According to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, on Feb. 22, Walton and his mother entered a Pismo Beach ampm store around 3 a.m. to buy snacks and cigarettes. Walton did not have cash, however, and multiple credit cards did not work.
The clerk, 66, asked them to leave and locked the doors to the store with a metal bar. Standing outside the store, Walton began to violently shake the doors, prompting the clerk to open them. An argument ensued, and the clerk was shoved to the ground. Walton then grabbed the metal bar that had been used to lock the doors and hit the clerk in the hand, causing it to bleed.
The clerk was an Indian Sikh, who was wearing a turban, which Walton tore off and gave to his mother. She then tied the turban to their car so that it covered the license plate.
Walton had argued that he acted in self defense. But a jury found Walton guilty in July of felony robbery and misdemeanor elder abuse.
During Monday’s sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt requested jail time, saying Walton had still not accepted responsibility for his actions.
“The defendant, to date, still says he has done nothing wrong,” Devitt said, referring to a report prepared by the county probation department.
Making the crime worse, Devitt said, Walton intentionally attacked the victim’s religious beliefs when he tore off the turban, then used it to cover a license plate.
“That is absolutely despicable,” he said. “It’s deplorable.”
According to several Sikh web sites, every Sikh man is expected to wear a turban over his uncut hair, which symbolizes their respect toward God. It is also said to be a symbol of equality since only wealthy men and kings wore turbans when the Sikh religion was founded more than 500 years ago.
After 9/11, however, Sikhs were often confused with Muslims and targeted for harassment.
Neither Walton nor the victim opted to speak during the sentencing.
Walton, who had no prior criminal record, will begin serving his term in December.