OSU professor won't be charged with felony, but could face misdemeanor count

Friday, October 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ An Oklahoma State University professor could face misdemeanor charges for an alleged physical confrontation between him and an Afghan taxi driver in California, prosecutors said Thursday.

The disturbance that resulted in the arrest early Saturday of Stanley E. Grogg, an osteopathic physician and associate professor at OSU, did not break state law, said Liz Pursell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

``It did not rise to the level of a hate crime'' at the felony level, Pursell said.

Police allege that Grogg punched the taxi driver about three times after putting one or both hands around the man's neck in the 12:30 a.m. disturbance. Police said the driver did not require or request medical attention.

If charged with simple battery, Grogg could face up to six months in jail or up to $1,000 in fines or both, said Tim Campen, a spokesman for the San Diego city attorney. If he is additionally charged with a hate crime, he could spend up to one year in jail or face fines of up to $5,000 or both.

``A hate crime is any crime with the intent to violate civil rights, intimidate or oppress,'' Campen said. The severity of the hate crime is judged by the ``underlying offense.''

In this case, the alleged battery did not cross the line into felony assault, he said.

After state prosecutors reviewed the case, Pursell said there were inconsistencies on both sides about what was said during the argument in the taxi.

Grogg and two other companions had hailed the taxi after sightseeing in downtown San Diego. The three were attending a weeklong medical conference and were headed back to their hotel.

The passengers asked where the driver was from, and he told them he was from Afghanistan, a police report says.

When the female passenger asked the driver, who has lived in the United States for 20 years, why he was in this country, he said he told her he was here to work. The driver told the San Diego Union Tribune that the female passenger then replied ``You're here to work and blow up the U.S.''

Police could not confirm the exact exchange of the conversation, but they did say the passengers accused the driver of making ``anti-American'' statements.

Neither Grogg nor his attorney Tom Warwick returned could be reached for comment on Thursday.

Warwick had said that the driver made inappropriate statements about those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.