Prosecutors investigating the fatal stabbing of a Marine in Washington, DC, are pursuing the case as a hate crime because the suspect, another Marine, shouted homophobic slurs before plunging a knife into the victim’s chest, reports the Washington Blade.
On April 21, Pfc. Michael Poth, 20, saw Lance Cpl. Philip Bushong, 23, hugging a gay friend outside Molly Malone’s, a straight bar in Capitol Hill. In a May 16 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman stated “this was a hate crime—the victim and his friend were embracing outside.”
Poth’s lawyer, David Benowitz, said his client acted in self-defense, claiming Bushong instigated the incident and punched Poth in the head and face. Video surveillance shows Poth getting up off the ground.
According to accounts in the Post and the Washington Times, Benowitz argued that the facts in the case didn’t support a second-degree murder charge and that the charged should be reduced to manslaughter.Poth shouted he was “going to stab somebody and cut their lungs out”
Court records show that Judge Beck denied the request to lower the charge and ruled that prosecutors established probable cause that Poth committed second-degree murder while armed. She scheduled a felony status hearing for the case on July 13.
Beck’s ruling came after D.C. Police homicide Det. Dwayne Partman testified at the hearing that a witness told police Poth shouted he was “going to stab somebody and cut their lungs out” just after he walked past Molly Malone’s bar. Partman testified that the witness said Poth made that remark while Bushong and his gay male friend along with other people were standing in front of Molly Malone’s, the Post reported.
At the time of the attack Bushong, whom friends say was straight, was visiting DC from North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and was just days away from completing his tour of duty with an honorable discharge.
Poth, meanwhile, was in the process of getting a dishonorable discharge unrelated to the murder: He had tested positive for marijuana and “verbally assaulted other soldiers and had to be restrained,” according to the Washington Post.