The two young men, Dorian Moragne (pictured bottom), 19, and Darael Demare Williams (pictured top), 17, could face more than 50 years in prison after pleading guilty in May to charges of belonging to a street gang, robbery by force and two counts of aggravated assault.
One of Moragne’s attorneys, Katie Hingerty, confirmed at the courthouse prior to the start of the hearing that the letter was submitted to the judge and her client is receiving support from LGBT activists.
White, 20, was attacked by a gang of four men in the Pittsburgh community after leaving a convenience store. His attackers repeatedly shouted, “No faggots in Jack City!”
A video of the beating was uploaded to a hip hop website, went viral and the story made national headlines.
Others charged in the attack are Christopher Cain, 18, and Javaris Bradford. Both face the same charges as Moragne and Williams. Bradford has not been brought into police custody and a bench warrant is out for his arrest. Cain remains in Fulton County jail after being denied bond in April.
Atlanta and federal authorities have said they are investigating this beating as a possible federal hate crime. Moragne’s defense attorney Jay Abt told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was told his client would be facing federal charges.
A version of the letter from the Atlanta LGBT activists on behalf of Moragne and Williams, dated July 9, asks that the men not be given any additional jail time beyond what they have already served.
“Our primary interest is seeing an end to the homophobia that seems to have been a dominant factor in the attack on Mr. White. We do not believe that this will be accomplished by a long sentence of imprisonment,” the letter states.
The full letter:
The Honorable Judge T. Jackson Bedford
Fulton County Superior Court
Justice Center Tower
185 Central Ave, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Dear Judge T. Jackson Bedford:
We are writing regarding the sentencing of Dorian Moragne, age 19, and Darael Demare Williams, age 17, who each pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of robbery by force on May 29th, 2012 for their parts in the attack of Brandon White.
As Atlanta-based LGBTQ organizations and individuals interested in the safety and well-being of members of our community, all of us do work (either professionally or on a volunteer basis) that seek to change our culture of violence into one of respect and dignity. Our primary interest is seeing an end to the homophobia that seems to have been a dominant factor in the attack on Mr. White. We do not believe that this will be accomplished by a long sentence of imprisonment.
We ask that this Court take into account the time Mr. Moragne and Mr. Williams have already served in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. We believe that the time each of these young men has already spent behind bars has been a significant loss of freedom. We ask that any additional term of imprisonment you impose be probated so that Mr. Moragne and Mr. Williams can serve their sentences in a manner that would allow Mr. Moragne to earn his G.E.D. and Mr. Williams to complete high school or earn his G.E.D., for them to find gainful employment, receive relevant services, and move their lives in a positive direction that can ultimately serve their community.
With great respect to the Court, we must reiterate that we believe the homophobia underlying physical attacks on LGBTQ individuals is not remedied through imprisonment. We are supportive of Mr. Morgane and Mr. William being permitted to regain their freedom by imposing sentences that will hold each young man to account for his actions through probation or community service.
Very sincerely yours,
Paulina Hernandez & Caitlin Breedlove, Co-directors, Southerners on New Ground
Paris Hatcher, Executive Director, SPARK Reproductive Justice
Deepali Gokhale, Queer Progressive Agenda
Holiday Simmons, Atlanta
Xochitl Bervera, East Point
Mary Hooks, Atlanta
Pat Hussain, Atlanta
Evelyn Lynn, East Point
Moki Macias, Atlanta
Lulu Martinez, Atlanta
Noemi Molitar, Atlanta
Cara Page, Atlanta
Kate Shapiro, Atlanta
Everette Harvey Thompson, East Point
UPDATE: Brandon White testified this afternoon and said that no one listed in the letter had contacted him prior to today’s trial. White added during testimony that he does not believe that his attackers should be shown leniency.
Christopher Cain, another alleged attacker, entered guilty pleas to charges of being in a gang, two counts of aggrevated assault and one count of robbery by force. He is also part of the sentencing hearing taking place with Moragne and Williams.
CLARIFICATION: From Lambda Legal’s director of Education and Public Affairs: “Holiday Simmons signed this letter in his individual capacity and the letter does not represent the position of Lambda Legal. Holiday was not aware that his organizational affiliation would appear in the letter and did not approve having it listed.”
Kung Li, who wrote the letter, accepted responsibility for mistakenly including Simmons’ job title in the letter.
Check back for more information.