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7 months later: hate crime at Amazon shipping facility goes unpunished

7 months later: hate crime at Amazon shipping facility goes unpunished
It’s been seven months since a man was brutally beaten for being gay at the Chesterfield Amazon Fulfillment center and there’s been no charges lodged and no day in court for the victim.

John Doe (the victim’s name is being held for his safety) was working an Amazon packaging shift back in May of this year when out of nowhere he was allegedly hit in the head repeatedly by a fellow employee.

While being treated for his injuries, Doe said the head of the facility’s security department approached him and said the alleged assailant told them he attacked Doe because he was gay.

“It all happened so fast — I didn’t really know what was going on,” the victim told GayRVA shortly after the attack, adding that he thought something had fallen on him.

But when he “turned around and looked at the man and he was just mad. He turned around and walked back to work like nothing happened.”

Chesterfield police responded to the call made by Amazon, and arrested the assailant. (GayRVA is not naming him either, again for the victim’s safety.)

After the incident, Doe was contacted by Chesterfield Police’s LGBT Point of Contact, Corporal Elliot Anderson.

Amazon had video of the attack, and it’s currently in the hands of Chesterfield police.

While they could not describe the content or nature of the video, they confirmed that they believed Doe was targeted for his sexual orientation.

CPD could not confirm if the assailant was currently behind bars, but they did express concern over the lack of movement on the case.

“We want to see [Doe] is taken care of and the right thing is done,” Anderson said.

Within a few weeks, Doe said he was contacted by the FBI and the US Attorney’s office.

In a private meeting, he was told the federal agency would pick up the case, and explained to him the complicated nature of charging the attacker with a hate crime because Virginia lacks sexual orientation in their list of protected classes in hate crime charges.

Doe was told the attacker — who has an extensive criminal record — would serve 60 days for violating probation, but was told the actual attack charges would be “put on the back-burner” while they waited for the federal agencies to get involved.

“They couldn’t tell me anything,” he said. “We’re waiting on the folks from DC to get through the paperwork.”

Doe heard from the FBI again two weeks after the initial meeting, and had to reach out to them in August for updates, but he’s not heard from them since, and given up trying to find out more.

He received no timeline for charges; no idea when and if he’ll need to go to court, or what will happen to the man who beat him unconscious.

“They told me they’d try not to bother me, to keep me out of it, which I understand,” Doe said in a recent interview with GayRVA. “But I just want this to be resolved, and I don’t want this to be swept under the rug.”

The attacker did face criminal prosecution for the assault.

He had a court date this past August, but the case was Nolle Prosequi, which means he was left free to leave the courthouse, but the County could come back and charge him at a later date.

FBI Richmond Division Media Coordinator Dee Rybiski said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations, and could not confirm or deny if an investigation into Doe’s attack was taking place, though she said the agency was aware of the incident.

Rybiski said timelines for federal crimes are not easy to nail down, even with evidence like videos of the attack.

“All aspects of an investigation need to be vetted and oftentimes interviews lead to additional work that must be completed,” she said.

Over at the Richmond Criminal Division of the US Attorney’s Office, Public Information Officer Laura H. Taylor was similarly tight-lipped, and said the Department of Justice does not comment on ongoing investigations, nor do they confirm or deny their existence.

Taylor said it’s not unusual for a the DOJ to take on a case initiated at the state level, but, again, timelines are hard, if not impossible, to nail down.

Neither the FBI nor the DOJ could confirm the attacker was currently behind bars, or if he was facing any kind of indictments.

This leaves Doe in the dark on the issue, and while he understands Virginia lacks specific hate crime laws protecting LGBTQs, he doesn’t understand how or why the federal justice system has abandoned him.

“You can’t go around discriminating and hating on people because you don’t agree with it… I didn’t do anything to that man and he beat the crap out of my face,” Doe said.

“For him to be free and clear is not fair.”

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