The Obama administration filed a federal hate-crimes charge Thursday against a man whom authorities accused of using the “knockout game” to target a black man, videotaping it, and then bragging about the assault to strangers.

The charge marks the first time the administration has taken action on a “knockout” case after the game became an Internet and media phenomenon. It chose a case in which the person accused is white, even though most other cases reported in the news have involved black assailants.

In this case, the man accused is 27-year-old Conrad Alvin Barrett, who the Justice Department says attacked a 79-year-old black man in Fulshear, Texas, just west of Houston. Justice Department officials said they brought the case to make a point about hate crimes.

“Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated,” said Kenneth Magidson, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “Evidence of hate crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted with the assistance of all our partners to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mr. Barrett’s attorney, George Parnham, told CNN that his client is on medication to treat bipolar disorder. Mr. Parnham said Mr. Barrett “is very sorry” for the victim.

He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Knockout, in which a participant tries to knock out a random person with one punch, has been in the news because of a spate of assaults in recent weeks.

The “game” has spawned a fierce cultural debate, with some commenters and law enforcement leaders disputing reports of a wave of attacks in New York, the District of Columbia and Midwestern cities such as St. Louis.