Woman sentenced for assaulting Applebee's customer for speaking Swahili

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Asma Jama is glad it’s over. Happy that the hate and alcohol-fueled assault that happened 14 months ago at an Applebee’s now has an ending. And she forgives her.

“Jodie, what you did that day wasn’t good,” she told Jodie Burchard-Risch. “You should never do anything like that to anybody, but I just wanted to tell you in front of everybody that I do forgive you.”

The pair, attacker and victim, were in Anoka County Court to hear Burchard-Ricsch’s sentence. This fall, the latter plead guilty to third degree assault, the end of a court case that began a year earlier in an Applebee’s.

In October 2015, Jama was speaking Swahili with a group of friends. Burchard-Risch angrily told her to speak English or go back to her country.  When Jama explained she is an American citizen and can speak English very well, Burchard-Risch hit her in the face with a beer mug and fled, leaving Asma Jama with a deep cut to her lip.

“My religion teaches me to forgive so I can get on with my life,” said Jama, who is Muslim. “My intentions to you are not bad. I don’t have any ill feelings towards you. I just want you to understand at the end of this that we are all the same.”

Burchard-Ricsh declined to say anything herself. No statement. No apology. No explanation.

She also had no comment to reporters as she darted from the courtroom.

She was sentenced to six months in jail followed by up to five years of probation. The judge also handed down a 37-month prison sentence that she does not have to serve, but hangs over her head if she violates any of the terms of her supervision.

The judge also ordered alcohol monitoring and counseling, noting that has been a huge problem throughout her life.  In fact, Burchard-Risch was on probation for a DWI when she assaulted Jama, forcing her to admit to a probation violation as part of the sentencing.

“I am an American citizen and I would fight for it today as much as you would,” Jama told her. “So I just want you to understand you hit somebody you didn’t know anything about.”

Burchard-Risch has to report to jail no later than 6 p.m. on January 2, 2017.

RELATED: Minnesota woman pleads guilty to assault of Swahili-speaking Applebee's customer


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