Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Dallas, Texas – A Springtown man who lied about his encounter with a gay man via social media in September has been charged with a bias-motivated hate crime.  According to a press release by the Dallas Division of the FBI, Brice Johnson, 19, has been charged with “willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of that person in a federal criminal complaint.”  On September 2, 2013, 24-year-old gay man, Arron Keahey, connected to Johnson through the social app, MeetMe, being led to believe that Johnson was gay.  The FBI press release details how Johnson led on Keahey to lure him to his home: “During their communications, Johnson said that he was interested in engaging in sexual activity with A.K. He invited A.K. to his home, gave A.K. his cell phone number and address, and they exchanged text messages planning their sexual activity.”

As soon as Keahey arrived at Johnson’s home, the assailant beat Keahey savagely, bound his wrists with an electrical cord, and rolled him into the trunk of a car.  Johnson drove to a friends house with his injured victim bleeding in the trunk.  Upon learning that Johnson had bashed the gay man so severely, Johnson’s friends threatened to call the police themselves if Johnson did not rush Keahey to a hospital.  Johnson drove his victim to a hospital in Fort Worth where he was treated for ten full days for smashed facial bones, lost and broken teeth, and multiple skull fractures.  Johnson concocted a story that he had found Keahey wounded, and being such a Good Samaritan, took him to the Harris Methodist Hospital.  Officers investigating found evidence to the contrary on Johnson’s cell phone where he had recorded a gay slur to refer to Keahey’s contact number.  Johnson then changed his story to say that he was “pulling a prank” on Keahey by the use of the slur to refer to him because of his sexual orientation.  Keahey has sworn that he had never had any sort of sexual or physical contact with his attacker prior to the moment Johnson lashed out at him on the night of the crime.

At the time of the incident, North Texas news media and law officers were reluctant to say that the assault that nearly killed Keahey was a hate crime.  Only after an extensive investigation with the FBI who were called into the case because of the possible anti-gay violence did the Parker County Sheriff’s Department and the Springtown Police Department come to final agreement that Keahey had told the truth all along, and that he had indeed been the victim of a hate crime due to extreme animus against his sexual orientation.  Though it remains unsaid in the FBI press release, the U.S. Department of Justice was able to step into the case investigation because of the provisions of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in October of 2009.  Otherwise, like so many under-investigated attacks against LGBT people, this hate crime would have gone uncharged and unpunished.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, one of the major news outlets most reluctant to name anti-gay hate crimes as they demonstrated in this case, it was a Springtown Police Lieutenant, Officer Curtis Stone, who first suggested in his report that the Labor Day beating might be a “possible” hate crime.  WFAA-TV which covered the September attack and interviewed Keahey, spun the story to subtly suggest that the gay man’s use of the MeetMe app had led to the crime.  Such an intimation may be factually accurate, but does not take into account the use of social media daily by millions of heterosexual people to hook up with the reasonable assumption that they will be safe in doing so.  While there is always risk in meeting unknown people through web-based or phone-based media, no one at WFAA has issued a warning that straight men and women who fall victim to violence after using social media are somehow responsible for their own victimization–a suggestion that LGBT hate crimes victims are to blame for violence against them.  The WFAA story ends with Keahey agreeing that he had “learned a painful lesson.”

Johnson appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to be charged with a hate crime.  The statutory maximum penalty is a ten year sentence in a federal penitentiary, and a $250,000 fine.

It took five full months for the Department of Justice and the FBI to firm up the hate crime charge against Johnson that the Springtown Officer had first suggested.  No one in Springtown or Parker County, or North Texas for that matter, wants to have to admit that anti-gay hate crimes take place there.  But they do.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Dallas Morning News, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, MeetMe.com, Slurs and epithets, Social Media and Smartphone Apps, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, WFAA-TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

   

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