At the time of the sentencing, Fulton prosecutor Gabe Banks said he believed the beating was a hate crime because of the slurs used in the attack and added the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Office were still investigating the crime.
Fulton Superior Court T. Jackson Bedford sentenced Cain, Moragne and Darael Williams to five years in prison.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s office asked for 15 years for all men with Moragne to serve 10 and Cain and Williams to serve eight. The men all pleaded guilty to the beating of Brandon White, 20, as he exited a convenience store in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh community.
“You all are the ultimate bullies,” Bedford told the young men before handing down the sentence at the July hearing.
“You didn’t like the way [Brandon White] looked, dressed or conducted himself and that’s nothing but being bullies. I don’t think you set out overtly to attack anyone in the gay community. I think this was based on a peer dynamic situation,” Bedford said.
But federal officials believed the beating of White was a gay bashing and the young men should be charged under the federal Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Hate Protections Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Oct. 28, 2009.
“Hate-fueled violence will not be condoned,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, in a press release. “The Justice Department will use all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, also promised violence against people who are perceived different will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“The FBI remains committed to ensuring the civil rights of all individuals, to include those singled out and attacked because of their perceived differences,” he said in a statement. “These acts of violence should be reported and aggressively investigated to ensure that we send a clear message that these actions will not be tolerated.”
“There are people who have been through this situation before where there was no evidence. People get jumped on daily, people have homophobic slurs thrown at them daily. For me to have proof and a video that was uploaded and the world to see it…it’s just crazy,” he said.