A man who beat a taxi driver unconscious during a traffic dispute, leaving the victim with permanent eye damage, was sentenced to a two-year prison term yesterday.

Eugene Kojo Holmes Jr., 28, admitted striking the driver in the April 2003 altercation outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington. He pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted aggravated assault and yesterday received the maximum sentence from D.C. Superior Court Judge Susan R. Winfield.

"We all know the frustration that comes with driving in the city," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Kaufman, who handled the case. "This is an example of someone who took that frustration and turned it into a really horrible, egregious attack."

The trouble began after taxi driver Kebede Yimam, 54, picked up a fare at the National Geographic Society and paused at H Street and Vermont Avenue NW to let a black Mercury Tracer go ahead of him, Kaufman said.

Holmes, who was driving the Mercury, contended that the taxi cut him off. He told police that he exchanged insults with Yimam and that the cabby spat out his window and hit him in the face before speeding off, Kaufman said.

Holmes followed Yimam to the 1000 block of H Street NW, where the taxi driver dropped off his fare, then chatted up the bellmen he knows at the hotel entrance. Holmes pulled up to the curb and stormed out of the car, heading toward Yimam, Kaufman said.

"He cold-cocks him in the eye," the prosecutor said. Holmes continued to hit the taxi driver, who was bleeding and trying to get away, Kaufman said.

The cabby was trying to tell Holmes to wait for police, but Holmes punched him several more times in the eye and head, beating him into unconsciousness as horrified hotel guests and employees looked on, Kaufman said.

Holmes jumped back into the car and sped off. Detective Juanita Eggleston later identified Holmes, of the 4000 block of Beecher Street NW, as the assailant.

Yimam suffered a dislocated lens in one eye and has permanent damage to his vision.

"Mr. Yimam was supposed to go to Ethiopia, to take care of family affairs after his brother passed away," Kaufman said. "But he stayed here to help with this case, to make sure justice was served."