Metro Weekly

Massachusetts man charged with assaulting gay man for flying a Pride flag outside his home

Alleged assailant, who stopped his car to assault the victim, was identified through his license plate

tom anderson, gay, assault, flag

Tom Anderson, the victim in the anti-gay assault in Taunton, Mass. – Photo: Boston 25 News

A Massachusetts man has been arrested and charged with assaulting a gay man in June, allegedly because he was angered at an LGBTQ Pride flag flying outside the victim’s home.

Michael Lee Cates, 34, of Brockton, was charged with assault and battery with serious bodily injury, and assault and battery with intent to intimidate, according to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.

Cates was identified through his license plate, which the victim remembered and reported to police on the day of the attack.

Police also viewed video footage from a neighbor’s security camera and spoke to the witnesses, including the victim’s husband and a motorist who was passing by and witnessed the assault. Police say they are still investigating the incident, reports the Taunton Gazette.

According to witnesses, Tom Anderson was outside of his home in Taunton, Mass., with his husband, Jacob, when a white SUV pulled over and a man got out. The man punched Tom Anderson in the face several times while calling him a derogatory slur, knocking out Anderson’s front teeth and splitting his lip. The man then returned to his car and drove off.

Anderson believes he was targeted for being gay, and because of the Pride flags and other Pride Month decorations that were hanging outside his home. The police report categorizes the incident as motivated by bias against “other sexual orientations,” and notes that “the victim and the assailant did not know each other” and that the assault appears to be “motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation which would make this incident a hate crime.”

But, thus far, no hate crime charges have been filed in the case.

Sherry Costa Hanlon, the Andersons’ lawyer, told the Gazette that prosecutors may be exercising caution and may want to make sure they have enough evidence before pursuing a hate crime charge.

See also: South Dakota man burns Pride flag while shouting anti-gay obscenities on Facebook Live

The Andersons released their own statement expressing gratitude at Cates’ arrest.

“It has been difficult knowing he was out there and possibly harming other people. We are thankful charges have been filed,” the statement read.

“It is important to stand not only for ourselves but for others. Sadly, many people are targeted for who they are or the way they look. We are thankful for all the support. Please continue your support as we move through this next phase of seeking justice.”

UPDATE: Following an appearance in Taunton District Court, Cates was found “dangerous” and ordered held without bail for up to 120 days.

“I am very pleased the defendant was held without bail as a danger to the victim and the community, which he clearly is,” District Attorney Thomas Quinn said in a statement following the hearing. “This is outrageous and malicious conduct. Targeting someone because of their sexual orientation, and violently assaulting them, will not be tolerated.”

Read more:

Lifetime is developing its first-ever movie with LGBTQ lead characters

Canadian mayor offers to help anti-gay resident leave town

New York resident sues state for failing to offer nonbinary gender marker on driver’s licenses

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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