Assailants in anti-gay attack plead guilty to federal hate crime

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 juvenile 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.”

No parole in federal system

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, according 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: ‘They deserve everything they are going to get’

A little over a year ago, on Feb. 4, 2012, Brandon White walked out of a convenience store in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh community, only to be ambushed by a group of young men. They beat him, yelling epithets like “No faggots,” while another recorded the attack on his cell phone.

In July, White saw three of the men convicted of aggravated assault under Georgia law. Last week, two pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges.

GA Voice caught up with White to discuss the hate crime convictions and how his life has changed in the year since the attack.

Are you pleased with the attackers pleading guilty to hate crime charges?

Brandon White: Very much so. To begin, that was my whole purpose. I know in the state of Georgia it was only considered an assault. It was a hate crime, because of their purpose and because of why they did what they did.

Did you attend the plea hearing? Were you asked to testify in the trial?

[The detective] called me the day before and told me about it. I scheduled off and went to the hearing. There was no trial to testify in.

Do people recognize you from the coverage?

That’s the funny part. I get a lot of people that come up to me. They don’t realize where they recognize me from, but they know me. I just tell them I have a familiar face.

I don’t want to go through that whole sympathetic process. You have those that do recognize me and want to do the whole “I’m sorry.”

The U.S. attorney’s office says they conferred with you before agreeing to the plea deal which has the sentences run concurrently. How do you feel about the deal?

Anyone that knows me, I don’t want to see any parent without their child for 10-15 years. At the same time, what were those guys thinking? They deserve everything they’re going to get.

If they get the years the judge was going to give them, that’s what they deserve to have. I feel no sympathy for them.

How are you doing now?

Physically I’m well. Mentally, I’m doing much better than I was. I’m back at work. My days go by and it doesn’t even seem like it’s been a year. You have reminders of who you are and where you’ve come from. It makes you look at things in a different perspective and in a different light. I’m actually in customer service with Comcast. I love my job.


— Dyana Bagby and Ryan Watkins contributed

Top photo: 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)