Attack on Gay Man in Texas was Prosecuted as a Federal Hate Crime

When a crime is judged to be motivated by factors such as race or sexual orientation, it may be dealt with by federal prosecutors as a hate crime.

Under federal law the hate crime legislation may be used in offenses linked to actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

If a defendant is found to have committed a hate crime he or she will often face a more serious sentence.

The Dallas Morning News recently reported on how 19-year-old Brice Johnson of Springtown met 24-year-old Arron Keahey online on Labor Day, 2013. He told him he was interested in a hook up but brutally beat him up, tied him up and put him in the truck of his car, before driving him to a friend’s home.

Five months on the FBI brought hate crime charges against Johnson, alleging he “willfully caused bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Johnson pleaded guilty in a Fort Worth courtroom to a federal charge of kidnapping. He will be sentenced in November, and faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“This was a senseless act of brutal violence that has no place in a civilized society,” Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels said in a statement.

He said the Department of Justice is committed to using every tool it has at its disposal to protect the rights of victims of violent crimes.

In this case Keahey survived the assault, but spent 10 days at recovering from his injuries, including “multiple skull and facial fractures,” at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the hate crime charge carries a shorter sentence than the kidnapping charge. The statutory maximum penalty for a federal hate crime conviction is 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Federal crimes investigated by the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration typically carry higher sentences. If you are being investigated by a federal agency, you should take action immediately and hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.