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Friday, April 19, 2013

Two plead guilty to federal hate crime in Brandon White beating case

In February 2012, Brandon White called his attackers monsters, and said that his scars run deeper than anyone can know
  • GWYNEDD STUART
  • In February 2012, Brandon White called his attackers "monsters," and said that his "scars run deeper than anyone can know"
Two men charged with beating a young gay man outside of a Pittsburgh neighborhood convenience store pleaded guilty yesterday to committing a federal hate crime.

Christopher Cain and Dorian Moragne admitted in court that they violated the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law that forbids violent crimes based on a person's sexual orientation. In February 2012, the two Jack City gang members, along with two other accomplices, punched and kicked then-20-year-old Brandon White as they yelled gay slurs.

Because of the epithets, the case landed in federal court. U.S. Attorney Sally Yates first became involved in the case because Georgia doesn't have its own hate crimes law. Groups including the Anti-Defamation League have pushed the state to pass a similar law.

Last July, a Fulton County judge sentenced the two gang members, along with Dareal Damare Williams, to five years behind bars. As part of the federal plea agreement, prosecutors have suggested that Cain and Moragne's state and federal sentences run concurrently. Both could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, plus three years of supervised release.

This case marks the first time in Georgia that a conviction has been obtained under the hate crimes act, which makes it illegal to act violently when perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, or gender identity becomes a motivating factor in a crime.

"Using violence against another person because of his or her sexual orientation has no place in our civilized society," Yates said in a statement. "The Department of Justice is committed to aggressively enforcing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to prosecute acts motivated by hate."

A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled, but should take place sometime in the next few months.

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