Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought charges under the federal hate crimes law against a man for severely beating another man and tying him in the trunk of his car just for being gay. According to the DOJ, the victim, known in the indictment as A.K., met the defendant on the social networking site, meetme.com. A.K. noted in his profile that he was gay, while the defendant’s profile indicated that he was straight. Nevertheless, the defendant invited A.K. to his home and they planned a sexual encounter through text messaging.
According to the indictment, when A.K. arrived, the defendant severely beat him, tied him in the trunk, and drove him to a friend’s house. The defendant took A.K. to a hospital only after his friends – seeing what he had done – threatened to call the police.
In addition to being charged under the Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the defendant is charged with one count of kidnapping. Each count carries a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. An indictment merely establishes probable cause and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. All of the parties who have conducted the investigation -- including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Springtown Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office (both in Texas) -- are to be commended for their professionalism and prompt attention to this incident.
This indictment comes on the heels of several recent hate crime attacks, including one in Florida earlier this month, when an individual was beaten based on gender expression. The assailants brazenly placed a video of the assault on social media.
Hate crimes are insidious not only because they target the victim, but because they single out an entire community. That’s why HRC continues to advocate for robust federal hate crime law enforcement and accurate hate crime statistics, as well as for LGBT-inclusive state hate crimes laws. Next month, I will be joining state law enforcement officials at a DOJ-convened Hate Crime Prevention Forum in Augusta, Georgia, a state that lacks any hate crime law. Please join us if you are in the area. Details can be found here.