JUSTICE FOR BRANDON
Assailants in last year's anti-gay beating of Brandon White plead guilty to federal hate crime charges
The cell phone video of the brutal anti-gay beating of Atlanta resident Brandon White, posted to a hip hop website last year, made the attackers seem particularly callous. Last week, it also proved key to the first case in Georgia to charge a violation of the sexual orientation section of the federal hate crimes law.
Christopher Cain and Dorian Moragne, both of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges April 18 before U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester.
“Violence against another person because of his or her sexual orientation has no place in our civilized society,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a prepared statement. “The citizens of this district should know that we are committed to aggressively prosecuting hate crimes.”
White was attacked on Feb. 4, 2012, by a group of young men who shouted “faggot” at him repeatedly. A video of the beating was posted to a popular hip hop website and went viral.
Without the video, the hate crime charges may not have been possible.
In July, Cain, 18; Moragne, 19; and Darael Williams, 17; were sentenced in Fulton Superior Court after being found guilty of aggravated assault. All were given 10 years in prison, to serve five years. Williams, who was prosecuted as an adult in Fulton County, was considered a juve- nile and not charged in federal court.
Georgia does not have a hate crime law, and the federal hate crime law that includes crimes based on sexual orientation — the Matthew Shephard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Protections Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009 — has stringent requirements for federal jurisdiction.
It was the cell phone video that allowed federal prosecution.
“The Hate Crimes statute confers jurisdiction if the defendant used an instrumentality of interstate commerce in connection with the offense,” Yates said in response to questions from GA Voice. “Under the law, a telephone is such an instrumentality.”
NO PAROLE IN FEDERAL SYSTEM
A sentencing date for Cain and Moragne has not been set, but prosecutors agreed as part of the men’s plea deal to ask that their federal sentences run concurrently to their state sentences.
“We conferred with the victim about this case, and after discussing the case with him, we agreed to recommend that the state and federal sentences run concurrent to each other,” Yates said. “A federal district court judge will ultimately decide what the sentence will be, and whether it should run concurrently.”
But the concurrent sentences do not mean Cain and Moragne won’t face any additional penalties due to the federal charges. They could be sentenced to up to 10 years, a $250,00 fine, and up to three years supervised release, ac- cording to a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney.
In addition, parole is not allowed in the federal system, requiring those who are convicted to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences (time is reduced only for good behavior).
“This means that even where state and federal sentences are ordered to run concurrent to each other, a defendant may serve a longer sentence than he would have if he had only been sentenced in the state,” Yates said. “Should he be granted parole in the state before the end of his federal sentence, he would be brought into federal custody to serve the remainder of the federal sentence.”
Brandon White confirmed this week that federal prosecutors consulted with him about the plea agreement for two men who beat him while calling him ‘faggot.’ Both men pled guilty to federal hate crime charges. (Photo by Dyana Bagby) Inset: White’s attackers Dorian Moragne (top) and Christopher Cain may face additional penalties due to the federal charges.