By Julie Grant

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Pittsburgh man has pleaded guilty in federal court to a hate crime, the alleged attack of an Indian man who investigators say the suspect thought was Muslim.

On Tuesday, Jeffrey Burgess pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the federal Hate Crime Prevention Act, which makes it illegal to hurt someone because of their actual or perceived race, color or national origin.

The incident happened last November at the Red Robin restaurant in South Hills Village.

Police say Burgess was sitting next to the victim, Ankur Mehta, in the restaurant.

According to police, Burgess believed Mehta was of Muslim descent and directed a series of racial slurs at him, saying, “I don’t want you sitting next to me.”

“The actor, Burgess, was upset that this gentleman was sitting next to him, and that he was, what he perceived to be, of Muslim heritage,” said Bethel Park Police Chief Timothy O’Connor in Nov. of 2016.

Witnesses say Burgess smelled strongly of alcohol, was slurring his speech and having trouble walking. Police say Burgess then hit Mehta four to five times.

“He suffered abrasions and some contusions, and we believe he then went to seek treatment at an area hospital,” said Chief O’Conner.

Burgess is 55-years-old and from Pittsburgh. He will be sentenced on March 27. The maximum time Burgess could spend behind bars is 10 years.

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