Atlanta men sentenced in Georgia’s first federal anti-gay hate crime case

Greg Smith, who advocated on behalf of White as part of his group HIP Atlanta Crime Prevention Initiative which seeks to bring awareness to violence against LGBT people, said White chose not to speak at the Wednesday hearing.

Smith said the U.S. Attorney told the judge he had never worked with someone like White who “was less about getting vengeance and more about getting justice.”

“The sentencing was fair,” Smith said. “This case affirms the need for LBGT victim advocacy services and data collection. In the Brandon white case there was a video. What do we do when there is no video?”

Cain and Moragne, both of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges April 18 before U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester.

“Violence against another person because of his or her sexual orientation has no place in our civilized society,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a prepared statement. “The citizens of this district should know that we are committed to aggressively prosecuting hate crimes.”

Without the video, the hate crime charges may not have been possible.

In July 2012, 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. The 10 months they were sentenced to will run concurrently with the five years sentence.

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.”

In an interview with GA Voice days after his attack, White said at first he wasn’t going to tell anyone what happened; he was going to “let it blow over.” But then Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, came and he got calls from his cousins telling him he was all over the TV and the internet.

“That’s when the embarrassment kicked in,” he said. “I cried that day. I don’t cry for nobody. I cried because there were so many emotions. I was pissed, there was anger, there was embarrassment, there was sadness.”

Watching the video of his beating was hard, White acknowledged. He didn’t even know the attackers threw a tire at him until he watched the video. But now he believes the gang members “set themselves up for disaster.”

“Once you decide to take [the video] viral, you set yourself up for whatever comes for you, the police … they set themselves up for everything,” he said.

White also called his attackers “monsters” at a press conference.

Top photo: Christopher Cain, Darael Demare Williams and Dorian Moragne were sentenced in July 2012 to serve five years in prison for the brutal attack on White, a gay man. On Wednesday, June 27, 2013, Cain and Moragne, who pleaded guilty to the state’s first federal hate crime charges in the beating of White, were sentenced to 10 months. (Photos via Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)