A Frederick County Circuit Court judge has sentenced an 18-year-old man to 15 years in prison, with all but four years suspended, for an anti-gay assault that took place last year.
Corey Robert Welch, of Frederick, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and a hate crime charge for what Circuit Judge Theresa Adams called a “heinous attack” during sentencing.
In exchange for his guilty plea, he’ll receive credit for approximately 15 months served in jail while awaiting trial. Upon his release in four years, he’ll undergo five years of supervised probation, reports the The Frederick News-Post.
According to prosecutors at the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, Welch attacked the 23-year-old victim, whom he perceived to be gay, at a house party in in New Market, Md., in February 2020. Welch reportedly made disparaging comments about the victim’s perceived orientation, and made the victim uncomfortable enough that he decided to leave.
While the victim was waiting for a ride-share to arrive, Welch then placed the man in a headlock and repeatedly strangled him, causing him to lose consciousness three times. A fellow party-goer, Martin Potomac Gieser, 19, of Ijamsville, allegedly held the victim down while Welch was attacking him. Gieser and Welch then took some of the man’s belongings. Throughout the attack, Welch repeatedly yelled anti-gay slurs at the victim, reports Baltimore-based ABC affiliate WMAR.
Gieser was recently sentenced to six months in prison for a charge of second-degree assault last October.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene of the attack around 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2020. The victim was treated for a concussion, a leg injury, and swelling and redness around his neck, as well as a raspy voice, according to the state’s attorney’s office. Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Corbett Wilt told Adams that the victim was a “perfect stranger” to Welch at the time of the attack.
The victim, who says he suffers from panic attacks since the assault, testified to Adams that he has struggled at his job and had lost wages due to the fallout from the assault. The victim reportedly suffers from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder — something to which his family members testified in court.
Because Welch was 17 when the attack occurred, the case started in juvenile court but was moved to adult court. Welch’s legal team unsuccessfully tried to get the case moved back to juvenile court.
Defense attorney Mary Drawbaugh told Judge Adams that Welch was “under the throes of his addiction” at the time of the attack.
Welch’s grandmother offered a statement on behalf of the family acknowledging Welch’s “irresponsible” decision but asking for leniency in sentencing, saying he needed help for alcohol and drug abuse.
The state’s attorney’s office said in a statement that prosecutors were pleased with the sentence of four years.
“Targeting a person because of their perceived sexual orientation is completely unacceptable,” the statement reads. “The victim and his family are satisfied that justice has been served and that this marks a moment of closure in this terrible ordeal.”
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