''They don't lock you up for hitting faggots.''
Those are the words the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia (USAO-DC) say 42-year-old Anacostia resident Anthony Wright told his neighbors last June after being released from police custody. Earlier that day, June 6, 2009, Wright punched his elderly gay neighbor in the face -- an unprovoked attack -- for which he was arrested, but released shortly thereafter.
Wright may have been correct last summer, but not on April 28, when a D.C. Superior Court jury found him guilty of ''bias-related simple assault and bias-related threats to do bodily harm.'' The second conviction stems from a threat Wright made against the same gay neighbor, 67, in August, following the neighbor into his home and threatening to stab him.
During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Wright verbally harassed his neighbor, calling him "faggot" every Sunday as the elderly man left for church, along with other verbal harassment on nearly a daily basis for two years. Both men lived in the 1200 block of Eaton Road SE, near the Anacostia Metro Station.
''The jury found that Wright committed these acts based upon his prejudice against the victim's sexual preference,'' reads a statement from the USAO-DC.
Wright is scheduled to be sentenced for these charges on May 12. Because the jury found Wright guilty of committing a bias-related crime, his maximum penalty for the assault and threat is subject to an enhancement of one-and-a-half-times the otherwise maximum penalty. In Wright's case that could mean 270 days of incarceration for each count. Write will also be sentenced for another conviction May 12: failing to show up for a March 18 trial date.
In a statement released to Metro Weekly, Kelly Pickard co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), said her organization commends the work of MPD, USAO-DC and the presiding judge, Anthony Epstein.
''In a city where the bias-motivated crime rate against the LGBT community is four times the national average, it is imperative that we, as a collective community, demonstrate it will no longer be tolerated,'' Pickard said.
''Recognition of the hatred behind these crimes and prosecuting them accordingly, along with consistent and sustained community outreach efforts, is a critical component to combating the problem.''
Joe Montoni, GLOV's second co-chair, responded similarly by e-mail.
''It is important that crimes like these are successfully prosecuted to send a clear signal to the bigoted and intolerant that this behavior will not be tolerated and that these actions reap consequence.''