Parker County Man Charged With Hate Crime For Assault Based On Victim's Sexual Orientation
FORT WORTH, Texas – Brice Johnson, 19, of Springtown, Texas, has been charged in a federal criminal complaint with willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of that person, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Sarah R. Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and Diego Rodriguez, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Dallas Division announced.
The complaint was filed on Feb. 12, 2014, in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson has been in state custody since his arrest on Sept. 10, 2013, and he made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday afternoon.
“Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Saldaña. “With the assistance of all our partners, hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We will thoroughly investigate all suspected violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in our community,” said SAC Rodriguez.
According to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2013, the adult male victim, identified as A.K., connected with Johnson through the cell phone application for MeetMe.com. A.K.’s MeetMe.com page indicated he was a gay man, while Johnson’s page indicated he was not gay. During their communications, Johnson said that he was interested in engaging in sexual activity with A.K. He invited A.K. to his home, gave A.K. his cell phone number and address and they exchanged text messages planning their sexual activity.
After A.K. showed up at the house, Johnson severely beat him, then put him into the trunk of A.K.’s car and drove him to a friend’s home. Based on ligature marks on A.K.’s wrists, it appears that he was bound with an electrical cord while he was in the trunk of the car. Individuals at the home told Johnson to take A.K. to the hospital or they would call the police, and Johnson eventually drove the victim to an Emergency Medical Services station in Springtown.
A.K. was hospitalized for 10 days in Fort Worth, and he was diagnosed and treated for multiple skull and facial fractures. The investigation revealed that on the night of the incident, Johnson saved A.K.’s cell phone number using a gay slur as a contact name and Johnson later stated that he was playing a prank on the victim because of his sexual orientation, again using a gay slur when referring to A.K. According to the affidavit, A.K. said that he had no physical contact with Johnson prior to the attack.
A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offenses being charged and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, the statutory maximum penalty upon conviction for the offense as charged is 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The U.S. Attorney’s office has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment, and an indictment could include other charges that increase the maximum penalty.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the Springtown Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cara Foos Pierce and Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division.