According to O’Donovan, he was at a party in Atlanta on December 31, 2012 when the gang approached him after seeing him dancing with another man. They yelled homophobic epithets and physically assaulted him. What happened next, he claims, was an act of self-defense.
In a statement, O’Donovan explained: “In an attempt to defend myself from the attack I thought could end my life I stabbed five of them, while also being stabbed three times myself.”
The prosecution, however, has a slightly different version of events. It claims O’Donovan had been kicked out the party, only to return later with a pocket knife with which he used to stab several people. One man required surgery as a result of the fight, though no injuries were fatal.
Of everyone involved, only O’Donovan was charged with anything — five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Facing a potential 110-year sentence if convicted by a jury, he chose to instead accept a plea deal of two years behind bars plus eight years probation.
O’Donovan’s supporters have called the case “the epitome of a hate crime” claiming that “the demonization” of his actions represented “a growing trend: criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.”
In a statement, O’Donovan said, “It is regrettable that anyone had to come to harm, but given the choice of whether to lose my life to a hateful attack or fight for the chance to live, I will always choose the ferocious refusal to go quietly into the night.”