No Hate Crime Charges For Anti-Gay Assault

Legal procedure can be queer.

Dallas prosecutors announced yesterday that they will not seek hate crime charges for Bobby Singleton and Jonathan Gunter, who are accused of beating gay man Jimmy Lee Dean last month.

Investigators do, however, acknowledge that homophobia played a part – particularly because the men – 29 and 31, respectively – shouted anti-gay slurs while beating Dean. But just because they won’t be charged with a hate crime doesn’t mean they won’t have to do the correspondent time…

Witnesses told police one of the suspects shouted gay slurs at Mr. Dean during the attack. Investigators also believe the men targeted Mr. Dean because they thought he was gay, police said.

Based in part on that evidence, Dallas police plan to categorize the attack as a hate crime for statistical reporting purposes, officials said.

But on the prosecution side, state law dictates a hate-crime designation is made during the sentencing phase of a trial, after a conviction.

“It’s a punishment issue, so if you prove the hate-crime aspect, it just ramps up the potential punishment,” said Kevin Brooks, a top prosecutor in the district attorney’s office. “The bottom line is if there is some reason like the person’s prejudice causes them to commit the offense, that’s going to come out anyway” at trial, said Mr. Brooks, speaking generally on the topic.

Also, even if hate crimes aren’t brought into the mix, Singleton and Gunter already face the maximum penalty: ninety-nine years in prison. The minimum’s five.