A New York man pleaded guilty Thursday to a hate-crime manslaughter charge for beating a Chinese immigrant who was collecting cans to earn money.
Jarrod Powell, 51, is expected to get a 22-year prison sentence for the 2021 death of Yao Pan Ma. The killing drew national attention as part of a rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York and around the country.
"This unprovoked attack took the life of Yao Pan Ma and took away a sense of security for so many in the AAPI community in New York," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement Thursday.
A message seeking comment was left for Powell's attorney.
Ma was abruptly attacked from behind, knocked to the ground and kicked and stomped in the head on an East Harlem street on April 23, 2021, authorities said. His attacker fled and left him unconscious; a nearby bus driver flagged down an ambulance.
Ma, 61, suffered a traumatic brain injury and never regained consciousness. He died from his injuries eight months later.
Powell was arrested four days after the assault. In pleading guilty, he acknowledged that he targeted Ma because the victim was Asian, according to Bragg's office.
Ma's loved ones approved of the plea agreement, family spokesperson Karlin Chan said.
"While this will not bring back Mr. Yao Pan Ma, it is a significant sentence that we can accept," Chan said, noting that the plea spares the family the pain of a trial.
Ma and his wife immigrated to the U.S. in October 2018 from China, where Ma was a dim sum chef, according to Chan. He has said Ma and his wife both lost their jobs — his as a kitchen worker, hers as a home care attendant — during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, and the couple then started collecting cans and bottles to return for refunds.