There is outrage and more questions than answers in the case of a teenager who killed a black gay Maryland man in a brutal street attack in Washington, D.C. and plead guilty to a misdemeanor, avoiding substantial jail time.
On Thursday, 18-year-old Robert Hanna plead guilty to misdemeanor assault in the September 2008 death of Tony Randolph Hunter,. Under the plea arrangement, the maximum possible sentence the 18-year-old Hannah can receive is 180 days in jail. Gay activists in the nation's capitol have called this a "miscarriage of justice", the Washington Blade reports.
Benjamin Friedman, a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s office, which prosecutes most criminal cases in the city, said his office could not comment on the case other than to note the grand jury decided on the simple assault charge after it "reviewed the evidence and considered the appropriate charges."
But gay D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who has practiced criminal law in the city for more than 20 years, took strong exception to Friedman’s assessment. "Make no mistake about whose decision it was," Sanders said. "The grand jury signed off on the decision made by the prosecutor." Activists say the action by the grand jury has exacerbated already strained relations between gays and police and the U.S. Attorney’s office over the case, which surfaced last fall.
On September 7 2008, 37-year-old Tony Randolph Hunter and a friend were severely beaten as they were headed to the BeBar, the popular gay club. Severe blows to the head left Hunter in a coma and lingering ten days in a vegetative state. Police arrested Hanna on October 15 for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the attack.
Police initially claimed the attack was motivated by anti-gay bias but later said they had "insufficient evidence" to support that motive. Hanna used a "gay panic" defense and his lawyer argued that Hunter touched grabbed his client's crotch and buttocks. Hunter’s friend says Hannah and three or four other men punched him and Hunter. The victim also tells police the attack was unprovoked and Hunter "never made sexual advances toward Hannah or anyone else." The U.S. Attorney declines to say whether Hunter’s friend was called as a witness before the grand jury.
Washington D.C. is home to one of the largest black gay communities in the nation. Why do D.C. black gay activists remain silent on Tony Randolph Hunter's death and the outrageous plea arrangement? Are circuit parties and barbecues more important?
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