Department of Justice files appeal in dismissed Amazon hate crime
It’s been about a year to the day since a gay man was brutally attacked at a Chesterfield County Amazon shipping facility and the Federal Department of Justice is hoping a dismissal from a District judge last month wont be the end of the case.
US District Judge John A Gibney Jr. signed the dismissal order in late April writing the law under which the attacker was charged was unconstitutional because the state of Virginia currently lacks protections for LGBTQ citizens. Virginia’s hate crime law currently includes protections for race, religion and country of origin, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Virginia is one of 15 states that does not protect these two classes along side Mississippi, Alabama and others.
Judge Gibney wrote “in no way [does this dismissal] diminish the seriousness of crimes based on discriminatory animus…” and noted “most states have passed hate crime statues [for LGBTQ people.]… For unclear reasons, Virginia does not.”
The judge also pointed to FBI hate crime numbers for 2014, almost 5,500 in 2014, with about 19% being committed against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
When the attack first occurred in May of 2015, the attacker told police that he hit the victim because he was gay. Chesterfield police urged the feds to get involved because of this evidence, and after seven months federal hate crime charges were finally filed, the first use of such a charge in the Commonwealth.
“Despite theses serious statistics and discrepancies in protection,” Gibney wrote, “a problem does not become a constitutionally permissible object of congressional regulation under the commerce Clause merely because it is serious.”
The victim in the case, who has continued to ask for their name to be held for the sake of privacy and safety, said he continues to be disillusioned with the justice system’s handling of the incident. In March he was asked to go before a grand jury as well as the attacker and testify to what happened. The victim compared that experience to ripping off a bandaid, reopening a wound he had spent a lot of time and money trying to repair.
The victim also commented on their interaction with the DOJ, which was at times good and bad. He’d worked closely with a victim services middle-person who was friendly, and less with the lawyer directly involved, David Schiller.
But last week Schiller and the DOJ filed an two page appeal asking the higher Fourth Circuit Court to hear the case.
In a phone call with GayRVA, the DOJ said they were unable to comment on ongoing cases, but the appeal is likely to be considered over the summer. The victim was told, if the appeal was accepted, they could get another court date in late summer or Fall.
“I plead with you as a gay man and a lifelong Virginian, realize the message you send with a vote of support for this bill. “February 12, 2016
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