An Islamic civil liberties group called for a man to be charged with a federal civil rights crime for assaulting a St. Cloud man who is Muslim.

Omar Merhi, executive director for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said such incidents should not be tolerated and that it is part of a growing pattern nationwide.

Phillip Joseph Massa, 33, was charged Monday in Stearns County court with obstructing the legal process and fourth-degree gross misdemeanor assault motivated by bias. Federal charges could still be filed, but Assistant Stearns County Attorney Shan Wang said he had not heard if that would happen.

Massa and another man approached a 26-year-old man Saturday afternoon and Massa accused him of being a Muslim terrorist, according to court documents. Massa threatened to kill the victim and then shoved him and elbowed him in the side of the head, causing the victim’s glasses to fall off.

The man with Massa tried to stop him and the two ran away.

The victim was leaving a prayer mosque in the 600 block of Seventh Avenue South at the time of the attack. Wang said Massa and the victim did not know each other.

When police arrested Massa, he refused to walk, according to court documents. Massa broke free from officers and tried to hit them. Massa was subdued once officers threatened him with a Taser.

Massa does not have hate crimes on his record. He has prior convictions for domestic assault in 1999, disorderly conduct in 2003 and driving under the influence in 2006. He was in Stearns County Jail over the weekend but was released Monday.


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