Federal hate crime charges have been levied against four men following a brutal attack at a Houston bus stop. This case marks the first of its kind in the Houston area—where federal prosecutors have stepped in to file hate crime charges. The four white men were indicted this month, after the attack that occurred last summer.
All four were already in jail on state misdemeanor charges for the attack when they were indicted federally. They will be facing both state and federal charges, as a result.
Last summer, one evening after midnight, Yondell Johnson, 29, waited at a bus stop on the corner of Travis and McKinney. It was then that he was approached by four shirtless, loud white men. One of them men asked Johnson if he had the time, calling him “bro.” One of the others berated his friend for calling a black man his “bro” and the attack began soon after.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Johnson is an amateur boxer and was able to fend off all four men for about 10 minutes until his feet were pulled out from under him and he landed on the ground. Then he was held down, and kicked and pummeled repeatedly.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening. I thought I was on my way to dying.”
Three of the suspects have white supremacist tattoos and they used racial epithets throughout the attack. It was clear that the attack was racially motivated.
Locally, they are facing misdemeanor charges for the assault. State prosecutors apparently intend on enhancing these charges to a hate crime. Despite this, they will remain misdemeanor charges. Changing it to a hate crime, at the state level, does nothing more than increase the minimum amount of jail time they will serve if convicted to six months.
But the federal hate crime charges could result in up to a decade behind bars for each man.
The local FBI civil rights squad confirms they are investigating three other hate crimes in the Houston area. It’s not often you see hate crime charges being levied even when there is a suspicion that the attack or crime was committed because of someone’s race, sexual orientation, or other protected designation.
The reason for this is because much more than “suspicion” of a hate crime is needed to gain a conviction.
While investigations and arrests may be made on probable cause, or evidence-supported suspicions, convictions can only be made when there is no doubt as to someone’s guilt. This works in favor of you if you are the defendant.
Whether you are accused of assault or a drug offense, your attorney is there to ensure you get the best results possible in court, namely by helping you to avoid a conviction. Contact our offices today if you are accused of a crime and in need of help.