SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah prosecutor said he can’t file anything tougher than misdemeanor assault charges this week against two Wyoming men accused of attacking two gay Salt Lake City men because the state’s hate crimes law is too broadly written and needs to be strengthened to include LGBT protections.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Thursday that he didn’t file misdemeanor assault charges until Wednesday in the 2014 attack because his office spent a lot of time trying to see if federal prosecutors could build a case against the men, or if his office could charge the duo under Utah’s hate crimes law, which he calls vague.
The two men who prosecutors say were attacked, Rusty Andrade and his friend Maxwell Christen, spent time at Utah’s Capitol earlier this year advocating for lawmakers to pass a new hate crimes law.
According to court documents, Andrade and Christen were outside Andrade’s house on the night of Dec. 21, 2014, when they hugged and were approached by the two Wyoming men, Chad Ryan Doak and Eric Levi Johnson.
Doak and Johnson made homophobic comments and used gay slurs before attacking the two men, according to prosecutors.
Doak punched Andrade several times in the face and they fell to the ground in the struggle, while Johnson attacked Christen, pulling him to the ground by his neck, according to court documents.
A neighbor and a bouncer at a nearby gay bar tried intervene and the two Wyoming men fled.