Hate crime charge next in Atlanta gay beating?
As his client stumbled through pleading guilty to beating a gay man, attorney Jay Abt was talking. Again. Not in court but to anyone who would listen that the U.S. Attorney is about to bitch slap his client and three others with a federal hate crime charge.
Trouble is, the U.S. Attorney’s office won’t say whether or not they’ll seek federal charges in the Feb. 4 anti-gay attack on Brandon White in southwest Atlanta. Dorian Moragne, Abt’s client, and Dareal Demare Williams (top photo left to right) pleaded guilty on Tuesday to four counts related to beating White, yelling anti-gay slurs and recording the incident and posting it online. They face up to 75 years in prison during a sentencing hearing in July.
One other man charged in the attack, Christopher Cain, was likely to plead guilt on Tuesday but his attorney, like Abt, was not able to appear in court. A fourth person charged in the incident, Javaris Bradford, is on the lam.
But as Moragne hesitated at admitting to a gang-related charge on Tuesday, much to the consternation of Fulton Superior Court Judge T. Bedford Jackson, Abt was telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a wild tale of how the feds “flew a lawyer down here personally to inform us” that federal charges would be filed in the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s office, which has been investigating the case along with the FBI, declined to say whether additional charges will be filed in the attack.
“The U.S. Attorney’s office is continuing to examine this matter for any potential hate crimes,” says John Horn, first assistant U.S. Attorney. “We don’t otherwise comment on matters that have not been publicly charged in federal court.”
This isn’t the first time Abt has used the media to float theories in the case. When Moragne did his perp walk after surrendering in February, Abt said “I am not going to comment on the evidence of the case.” Then he proceeded to do exactly that by adding, “I am saying that Mr. Moragne did not commit a hate crime.”
Abt later attempted to splinter support for White among LGBT activists by meeting with some and helping to push a theory that the victim prompted the attack by threatening to out one of his attackers. It worked.
Maybe Abt, with his talk of federal hate crime charges, is attempting to influence Bedford as he considers the sentence he will hand down in July. Or maybe he wants to further division among LGBT activists over the case.
Or maybe he’s got nothing better to do than talk as he recovers from two broken ribs and a fall through his ceiling over the weekend that kept him out of court on Tuesday.
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