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Ex-Lincoln man gets 16 years for hate crime for unprovoked attack on Black man in Oregon

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A former Lincoln man was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison Thursday for randomly stabbing a Black man in the neck at a restaurant in Oregon in 2019 in a manic episode.

Nolan Levi Strauss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, previously pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime.

Nolan Strauss

Nolan Strauss

According to court records, on the morning of Dec. 21, 2019, a 48-year-old Black man was sitting in the lobby waiting to turn in a job application at an Arby’s restaurant in Ontario, Oregon, when Strauss approached him from behind and cut him across his neck.

Following a struggle for the knife, the man freed himself, and Strauss was detained by a maintenance employee, who said Strauss told him he did it because the man was Black, "and I don’t like Black people.”

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The victim, Ronnell Hughes, was life-flighted to Boise, Idaho, for emergency surgery. The cut to his jugular vein required 50 stitches. 

Strauss spent time in the Oregon State Hospital until June 2020, when a judge found him mentally fit for a state court case against him to proceed. Three months later, a grand jury indicted him with a hate crime involving an attempt to kill.

At sentencing, Hughes said he was seeing Strauss’ face for the first time in the courtroom.

“For someone to just sneak up on me and try to take my life from me, I’m angry,” he said, according to the Malheur Enterprise of Vale, Oregon. 

Strauss, who has a history of mental illness, was having a “manic episode” when it happened and hadn't been taking his medication, according to his attorney.

“I wouldn’t do that in my right state of mind,” Strauss told the judge Thursday, according to the Malheur Enterprise. “I’m happy that he survived.”

In the end, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane sentenced him to 16 years, calling the attack “a remarkable act of violence.”

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Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug for the District of Oregon said the sentence should send a clear message to anyone contemplating similar acts of violence. 

“Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated,” he said.

Strauss had lived in Lincoln as recently as 2018, when he was sentenced to six months in jail for assaulting a Lincoln police officer.

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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