Three teenagers have been arrested and charged with aggravated assault and robbery: Christopher Cain, Dorian Moragne and Darael Demere Williams. The FBI said today it is still investigating whether the beating can be classified as a federal hate crime.
Members of Change Atlanta met with Moragne’s mother, who said her son “was a good kid” and tolerant of gay people. Moragne is represented by defense attorney Jay Abt, who has also been meeting with Change Atlanta activists and will attend a town hall forum titled “What’s Next?” on Saturday sponsored by Change Atlanta at the Phillip Rush Ceter.
Koehler responded to that report by saying, “There’s a video that speaks for itself. Let the public decide if he is a good kid.”
Moragne is identified as the one throwing a tire on White after he is knocked to the ground.
Terik Jackson told CBS Atlanta in a subsequent report that a video was on White’s cell phone that proved at least some of the men who attacked him were gay and that’s why his cell phone was stolen.
“There is a video that was on Brandon’s cell phone. They didn’t just beat him because he was gay,” Jackson told the station. “In the beginning we thought this was a random attack because Brandon was gay.”
Koehler said if someone has White’s cell phone it should be turned over to law enforcement immediately.
“Anyone who has Brandon’s cell phone is a thief … and should turn it over the Atlanta Police Department or the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office,” she said.
Devin Barrington Ward, who also was quoted on CBS saying that White should “come forward to right his wrong,” said he was only responding to information that CBS presented to Change Atlanta.
“We merely commented on information CBS brought to us. I guess that information came from Gary Nichols who said that there was a prior relationship [between White and his attackers],” Ward said in an interview today.
In the CBS report, Nichols, who is described as a member of Change Atlanta, stated, “We were all duped … and it’s a bitter shame, Brandon was basically agitating these young men about personally exposing them for being DL gay … on the down low, possibly gay. He really knows who these guys are and I just feel like he absolutely lied to us.”
Ward said Nichols is not a member of Change Atlanta.
“I was the one who brought the attention of Brandon’s attack to the press,” Ward said, adding he had no intention of turning his back on White.
“Whether or not there was a relationship doesn’t matter. A crime took place and there is an air of homophobia in the video,” Ward said. “Even if the allegations [White knew his attackers] are indeed true, we will still stand behind Brandon. I can’t say he did or did not lie. I want to reserve judgment. It is not my job to vilify Brandon and to call into question his character.”
Koehler, however, has doubts about Change Atlanta’s claims that it truly wants to help White as well as the community find healing.
“The idea that our community, or the community at large, will reconcile in front of cameras is either naive or disingenuous. To me, this seems more and more like a race to get 15 minutes of fame,” she said.
She said she and White were not invited to the community forum on Saturday, which will include Moragne’s mother and defense attorney, and they would not attend anyway.
“You don’t call people liars and then say you are trying to reconcile at the Rush Center,” she added.
“It is exceptionally reckless to accuse someone of fraud without ever, ever talking to him,” Koehler said. She also said it was “brilliant strategy” by the defense attorneys to get the gay community to turn its back on White.
“To get these so-called gay activists to talk to a suspect’s mother and to alienate Brandon White from the community is brilliant,” she said. “I am not going to stand by while Brandon is attacked again.”