Back in 2017, a 33-year-old Ohio man named Izmir Koch was arrested and charged with a hate crime for his role in a brawl outside a restaurant in Cincinnati. Koch was accused of brutally attacking another man simply because he was Jewish. This week, a judge ruled that the attack was, in fact, a hate crime. This is not the first time that Koch has been convicted of a violent crime. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Koch Reportedly Yelled ‘I Want to Kill All Jews’ While Beating the Victim in the Head
Izmir Koch was arrested after a violent brawl outside of a Mediterranean restaurant in Cincinnati called Mirage. Koch and a few other men were apparently standing outside a restaurant on the evening of February 4. Koch, speaking in Russian, loudly asked if anyone outside the restaurant was Jewish. A Lithuanian man who spoke Russian replied that he was Jewish. That’s when Koch ran up to him and punched him in the head. Koch then ran over to the man and repeatedly punched him and kicked him. He and the other men kept on beating the man ever after he was down on the ground.
During the attack, a witness said they heard Koch saying he would like to “cut” a Jew; the witness said he used an offensive Russian-language slang term for Jews. Witnesses said they also heard Koch yelling “I want to kill all of the Jews” and “I want to stab the Jews.”
2. Koch Is a Member of Cincinnati’s Russian-Turkish Community
Koch and the victim apparently had some mutual friends. They were both part of Cincinnati’s Russian-speaking community, a normally peaceful community which includes both Jews and Muslims from Turkey, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Witnesses told a judge back in November that people in the community generally respect one another’s religious differences. Many had immigrated to the US to avoid ethnic persecution.
The victim in the case was originally from Lithuania, but also spoke Russian. It wasn’t clear hy he said that he was Jewish when, in fact, he later told prosecutors that he wasn’t. The victim actually withdrew his initial police report a few weeks after the attack, because, he said, “everybody had been drinking.” But Judge Susan Dlott said that it was clear that the incident amounted to a hate crime. “Koch used an offensive slang term to describe Jewish people, announced his desire to ‘cut’ or ‘slaughter’ Jews, and then immediately attacked the lone man who identified himself as Jewish, causing him bodily injury,” Dlott wrote in her decision.
3. Koch Was Also Charged With Lying to FBI Agents
After the incident outside of the Cincinnati restaurant, Koch made a voluntary statement to the FBI. Accompanied by his lawyer, Koch told FBI agents that he had not been involved in the attack at all; he also denied that he had said anything about hating Jews. “I… never said anything bad about Jews that night… I did not get into a fight that night… I never said I hated Jews and I never said I wanted to kill Jews,” Koch told FBI agents in 2017.
But four witnesses told the court that Koch had talked about hating Jews. And three of those witnesses — including the victim — said that Koch was involved in the attack. Koch was convicted of lying to FBI agents, on top of the hate crime charge. US Attorney Benjamin Glassman said, “We will not permit hate-fueled violence to gain a toehold here. Nor will we countenance lying to FBI agents. Today’s convictions reflect our resolve.”
4. The Victim in the Case Wasn’t Jewish After All
Koch’s victim was seriously injured by the brutal February 4 attack, suffering injuries to the ribs and eye sockets. On February 4, Koch and his friends were reportedly standing around outside a restaurant when they started loudly asking people whether they were Jewish. One man, who was standing outside the restaurant smoking a cigarette, said that he was. That’s when Koch ran over to him and punched him in the head, hard enough to knock him down. After the man fell to the ground, Koch and his friends kicked him and beat him repeatedly.
Koch hired a lawyer immediately after the attack. He told FBI agents who were investigating the case that he had not been involved in the violent attack. Koch also told the FBI that he had never said anything about hating Jews that night. Koch was eventually convicted of a hate crime and of lying to the FBI.
5. Koch Has Been Convicted of Assault Before
In 2016, Koch and a group of three other Ohio men were convicted of a brutal beating in Dayton, Ohio. All four men were found guilty of felonious assault after an attack and beating at SMS Trucking, on Valley Street in Dayton. The four men allegedly beat the victim with weapons and objects. At least some of the men who were convicted of assault also worked at the trucking company.
Prosecutors said that the victim in the case was a former employee of the trucking company who had come to the business to complain about the back pay he was owed. Witnesses said that a fight broke out and that all the men involved were speaking a language they couldn’t identify. The fighters grabbed tire irons and crowbars and used them to attack the former trucking employee, according to witnesses. One witness said hat the “guy being chased” also had a knife and that he stabbed one of the people chasing him.