Hate crimes are not always easy to define. In some cases, it’s easy to recognize an offense as a hate crime. For example, violence against someone who wears particular religious clothing is widely acknowledged as a hate crime. In Oklahoma, a man was recently charged with a hate crime after he murdered his neighbor for no other reason than the man was a Lebanese immigrant. Carrying out violence against someone based on the person’s religion or ethnicity is generally what people think of when asked to describe a hate crime.
However, hate crimes can also involve an individual’s sexual preference. These cases are sometimes overlooked as hate crimes, as the victims don’t always stand out or look different from their attacker. What many people do not realize is that members of the LGBT community have a higher risk of being a victim of a hate crime than members of any other group in the country. Any time someone is targeted based on inclusion (or perceived inclusion) in a group, it’s a hate crime.
Prison Sentence for Man Who Poured Boiling Water on LGBT Couple
Recently, a jury in Atlanta convicted a Georgia man of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault after he poured a pot of boiling hot water over two sleeping men.
According to the Washington Post, the men were asleep at the time of the incident. They had been dating for two weeks and were staying at the home of one of the men’s mother. Asleep in the living room, they woke to searing agony as scalding hot water was poured over their bodies.
Their attacker, a 48-year-old truck driver who stayed at the home whenever he was in town for work, claimed “it was just a little hot water.”
Court documents show one of the victims must wear compression garments 23 hours a day for two years to help heal his burns. The other victim sustained burns over 60 percent of his body and was placed in a medically-induced coma for weeks as doctors fought to save his life.
The judge sentenced the attacker to 40 years in prison, stating the defendant had many chances to contemplate the severity of his crime, considering the length of time required to heat a pot of water to boiling. The defendant’s lawyer claimed his attack was not a hate crime, but merely “old-school thinking.”
Because Georgia is one of just five states in the country without a hate crime statute, the charges were filed as assault crimes.
LGBT Twice as Likely to Be a Victim of a Hate Crime
The case shines an important spotlight on the growing problem of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation. Recent reports state that members of the LBGT community are twice as likely to be victims of hate crimes as African-Americans or members of the Jewish faith.
According to FBI data, one-fifth of all reported hate crimes in 2014 were motivated by opposition to the victim’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Researchers say they have also seen a surge in these crimes since the Supreme Court struck down the ban on gay marriage.
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