Credit: Courtesy of York County Jail

PORTLAND, Maine — The federal trial of a Biddeford man charged with hate crimes against two black men in April 2018 is expected to begin here on Friday, after being set back several days earlier this week. A clerk at the federal court house did not account for the delay.

Jury selection was initially scheduled for Tuesday in the case against Maurice Diggins, 46, of Biddeford, who faces federal hate crime charges for two separate alleged assaults in Biddeford and Portland nearly two years ago. Diggins is also charged with conspiracy to commit hate crimes for the actions, which allegedly were conducted with his nephew, Dusty Leo.

According to a complaint filed in York County Superior Court, Diggins and Leo drove a pick-up truck to a 7-Eleven convenience store where the victim was making purchases. The two men confronted the victim, whom they had never met, repeatedly used a racial slur to address him before violently attacking him and breaking his jaw. The victim got up and ran away into an alley.

It is the first time the federal statute — known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act — has been used to bring such charges in Maine since it was adopted in 2009.

Leanne Robbin, then the assistant state attorney general who handled the state civil case against Diggins and Leo, said in 2018 that the “brutality” of their alleged crimes stood out to her.

Diggins has a tattoo bearing the phrase “Dirty White Boy” and several Nazi swastika symbols tattooed on his arm, according to the civil complaint.

Leo pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit hate crimes and one count of aiding and abetting a hate crime.