DA: Alleged gay bashing in Savannah by Marines not considered hate crime

Christopher Stanzel, 23, and Keil Cronauer, 22, of Beaufort are charged with misdemeanor battery in the attack on Kieran Daly, 26, on June 12 in Savannah. Daly, who is gay, alleged that he was attacked because one of the Marines said he winked at him.

Alicia Johnson, spokesperson for the Chatham County DA’s office, which includes Savannah, said today that the two Marines will only face misdemeanor charges for allegedly punching Daly. The decision was made weeks ago, she added.

The two Marines will appear before a judge in state court on Sept. 9. The judge is expected to hear the case and render a verdict, Johnson said. The case has already been postponed twice.

Christopher Charles Stanzel accused of beating a gay man
Christopher Charles Stanzel
A marine accused of beating a gay man in Savannah
Keil Joseph Cronauer

After the alleged attack on June 12, LGBT activists in Savannah and Atlanta called for the FBI to investigate the incident under the federal hate crimes law.

Johnson said after the FBI, the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department and the DA’s office reviewed Daly’s medical records and conducted further investigation, they determined this case had “no merit” to be considered a hate crime.

“I can’t speak on the specifics because this is pending litigation, but for a crime to be considered a felony [which a hate crime is considered to be] there has to be proof of a sustained injury,” Johnson said.

“It’s my understanding Daly suffered only a punch. Based on his medical records we could not upgrade the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.”

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the Marines could face less than a year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,200, she added.

According to a Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department report, Daly was allegedly attacked at about 3:45 a.m. on June 12.

Daly’s friend, Alison Brennan, told police “they were all eating pizza [in Johnson Square] and were joking around with the two subjects when Mr. Cronauer got upset because he found out Mr. Daly was a homosexual. She continued to state that she was trying to get Mr. Daly to walk away because she heard Mr. Cronauer tell him ‘did you just wink at me!’

“At which point she stated Mr. Stanzel walked behind Mr. Daly and when she turned her attention to them Mr. Daly was on the ground unconscious. She immediately ran to him and in passing asked Mr. Stanzel, ‘did you just hit him?’ Mr. Stanzel’s response was ‘No’ and took off running with Mr. Cronauer heading west on Congress St.

“She then went to the aid of Mr. Daly and she stated he did not have a pulse at first. She then gave him some ‘chest rubs’ and all Mr. Daly did was lift his eyebrows but did not wake up.”

Police found the two suspects in a fenced, empty lot after they were seen running “full sprint” from where Daly was injured. They told police they were waiting for friends.

“Mr. Cronauer stated that they were being harassed by a white homosexual male earlier in the evening and just wanted to get away and meet their friend on Bay St. Mr. Stanzel stated that he was going to meet a friend on River St.,” according to the police report.

They were turned over to military police.

Further reports that Daly suffered a seizure and required CPR caused an uproar among LGBT people in Georgia and nationwide, who demanded police charge the Marines with a felony.

The incident also prompted Georgia Equality to ask the Department of Justice and the FBI to intervene to investigate whether or not the incident is a federal hate crime.

“I’m very concerned this happened in the first place. But these misdemeanor charges are outrageous,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham shortly after the incident. “And then to turn [the Marines] over to the military police is a miscarriage of justice.”

Dozens of LGBT activists and allies met in Johnson Square in the historic district of Savannah, Ga., on June 20 to express outrage over the alleged beating and to call for Georgia to pass a state hate crimes law.