DETROIT — A Michigan man pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges on Wednesday, admitting that he assaulted a victim because he believed the man was gay, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Everett Dwayne Avery, 36, of Detroit, Mich., said that on March 7, 2011, he struck Justin Alesna in the face while they were customers at a convenience store in Detroit because he believed that Alesna was gay.
Alesna, who spoke to the Detroit Free Press after last year, said he went to a BP to buy cigarettes and was standing in line behind Avery. Avery used an anti-gay slur and told him to move back because he believed Alesna was gay, the plea deal stated.
Avery hurled profanities and other homosexual slurs before punching Alesna in the face, the document stated. The two had never met before, and Avery knew nothing about the victim except that he assumed Alesna was gay, the document indicated.
Alesna suffered a fractured eye socket and other facial injuries as a result.
“Hate-fueled incidents have no place in a civilized society,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“The Justice Department is committed to using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to prosecute acts of violence motivated by hate,” he said.
“A hate crime is different than a simple assault because it is an attack on not just one individual victim, but an attack on everyone who shares a particular characteristic,” said Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. “By passing this statute, Congress made it clear that an attack based on a victim’s sexual orientation will not be tolerated in America.”
Although the Act was designed to give federal authorities the ability to pursue reported hate crimes ignored by local authorities, federal prosecutors have used the new hate crimes law only 11 times.
In April, a federal grand jury in London, Ky. indicted two men for kidnapping and assaulting a man because he was gay. It marked the first time under the expanded hate crime law that federal authorities charged a person with a crime committed because of the victim’s perceived sexual orientation.
Avery faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for November 28, 2012, before Judge John Corbett O’Meara.