Prosecutors in Arlington, Texas have decided not to prosecute a homophobic graffiti attack on a lesbian couple’s SUV as a hate crime as they feel it would complicate the case.
Daniel Sibley, 18, John Austin Cartwright, 17, Seth Stephen Hatcher, 18, and Morgen Rae Aubuchon, 18, were indicted on September 25 for a string of vandalism offences committed on the night of June 9 which included spraying the words ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ on the women’s vehicle.
The women’s vehicle had a decal of a lesbian couple and children on the window which the youths spray-painted the slurs on.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Betty Arvin said the anti-gay graffiti could have been dealt with separately as a hate crime but that would have complicated things.
Her office instead chose to combine all 13 individual incidents, involving public signs, garage doors and vehicles across more than a dozen residences, to obtain a state jail felony charge.
‘We felt like we would have more flexibility and more options if we aggregated the cases so that’s what we did,’ Ardin told the Dallas Voice.
‘For a hate crime you’ve got to prove that the people involved specifically targeted a person or their property due to … their sexual orientation or their race, and we suspect it but we can’t prove that. Well, we certainly can’t prove it on all 13 [counts].
Arlington Police had initially said they planned to report the incident to the FBI.
‘A crime of hatred is not only a crime against an individual but it is a crime against the community,’ acting Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson had told a press conference just 11 days after the attack.
‘Early in this investigation it was clear that hateful and biased language was used to damage property at multiple locations. It was equally clear that at least one of our 13 victims was targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation.’
The youths are facing potential jail terms of between 180 days and two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine each.
They will next appear in court on October 24.
A 16 year old girl also believed to be involved will be dealt with separately through the juvenile justice system.
Texas law prohibits hate crimes based on sexual orientation and covers both property crimes and violent crimes.