Plea Deals Reached for Men Accused of Hate Crime
Four men were arrested and charged with aggravated assault with bodily injury for a January 2019 attack on a gay couple in Austin. Texas law punishes the second-degree felony with two to 20 years in prison. However, prosecutors hoped to prove the assault was a hate crime, elevating the charges to a first-degree felony. A conviction would come with a maximum prison sentence of 99 years.
Details Leading to the Arrests
According to a filed arrest affidavit, two men leaving a gay club in Austin were holding hands and hugging when they heard someone yelling homophobic slurs at them. The four men initially accused of a hate crime allegedly followed the couple down the street. According to a witness, the couple tried to defend themselves when the four men attacked. The two men fell to the ground as the group of men kicked and punched them.
After the witness called the police, the four defendants fled the scene. Law enforcement arrested all four men three weeks later after identifying them with video surveillance footage and receiving information from a tipster.
Complications Regarding Hate Crimes in Texas
The Texas Criminal Code does not explicitly list a hate crime as a criminal offense. However, it can be used as an aggravating factor to increase sentencing for a conviction of another crime. Unfortunately, proving a hate crime occurred can be challenging. State law requires prosecutors to prove someone targeted a victim because of their sexual orientation, race, color, gender, or another category.
A court filing one year after the arrest showed that a hate crime might not have occurred. A police detective who investigated the fight said he didn’t believe the incident had anything to do with a hate crime. In his filing, he stated that he thought maybe the fight between the two groups started because two of the men bumped shoulders while passing each other on the street.
Sentencing for the Defendants
One man’s case was eventually dismissed, and the other three were able to reach plea agreements. Each pleaded to two counts of misdemeanor assault with a finding of a hate crime. The deal they reached also did not include additional jail time.
Two men will serve probation for two years and must complete anger management counseling and 50 hours of community service. Additionally, they’re not allowed to go anywhere near the downtown Austin area for two years. One of them agreed to serve one year in jail, but he earned credit for the time already served in Travis County jail as part of the agreement. He is now serving time in Denton County jail on unrelated charges.
Contact Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Today
If you were arrested or charged with assault in Texas, you need a dedicated and aggressive criminal defense attorney to represent you in your case. Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian has years of experience helping our clients fight the charges they face. When you hire us, we will work hard to protect your rights and secure your freedom and future.
Call us at (972) 369-0577 right now for your free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.