As­sailants in last year's anti-gay beat­ing of Bran­don White plead guilty to fed­eral hate crime charges

GA Voice - - Front Page - By LAURA DOU­GLAS-BROWN lbrown@the­gavoice.com — Dyana Bagby con­trib­uted

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.”


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.

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