A Michigan man has become the second US citizen to be prosecuted for a homophobic attack under federal hate crimes laws passed by the Obama Administration in 2009
A Michigan man who attacked another man at a Detroit petrol station because he thought he was gay has plead guilty to a hate crime in what is only the second time that US Federal Government’s hate crimes law have been used in a gay hate case.
Everett Dwayne Avery, 36, punched another customer in the face in a convenience store located in a Detroit petrol station in March of 2011, fracturing his eye socket amongst other injuries.
His victim, Justin Alesna, had been standing behind him, waiting to buy cigarettes, when Avery decided that he was standing too close to him.
Avery had hurled a range of anti-gay slurs at Alesna before attacking him.
Avery will appear for sentencing on November 28. Under a plea bargain, Avery will spend between 12 to 18 months in prison and could be fined up to $20,000.
Avery was prosecuted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – named for two prominent victims of hate crimes in the US.
James Byrd Jr was an African American man who was dragged to his death by white supremacists in Texas 1998, while gay university student Matthew Shepard was beaten and tortured and then left to die of exposure during the same year in Wyoming.
‘A hate crime is different than a simple assault because it is an attack on not just one individual victim, but an attack on everyone who shares a particular characteristic,’ said US Attorney Barbara McQuade.
‘By passing this statute, Congress made it clear that an attack based on a victim’s sexual orientation will not be tolerated in America.’
FBI Special Agent Robert Foley III, whose office investigated the case, said the verdict should send a message to the community that hate crimes against LGBT people are not acceptable.
The FBI is committed to protecting the community from those who are motivated by hate to victimize anyone as the result of their sexual orientation,’ Foley said.
‘Hate-fueled incidents have no place in a civilized society,’ said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
‘The Justice Department is committed to using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to prosecute acts of violence motivated by hate.’
Without a plea bargain, Avery could have faced up to 10 years in prison.