A gay teenager has been left “broken” after a man he had been dating strangled, burned, and assaulted him with a group of friends.
Prosecutors in England described the attack as “torture,” after the 17-year-old was brutally attacked earlier this year by 20-year-old Taylor Knight, near the city of Birmingham.
Knight was sentenced to almost four years in prison for the attack, which was deemed a hate crime, after admitting to assault, theft, and child abduction.
The teen had been speaking to Knight since last year, starting with texts, social media messages and phone calls — often of a sexual nature — and the pair eventually spent the night together, Birmingham Live reports.
Their relationship took a turn in March this year, Birmingham Crown Court was told, after Knight’s friend “Ace” — who has not been identified — hurled anti-gay abuse at the teen. A few days later, the teen visited Knight at his apartment, but once again endured homophobic comments from Ace.
“The victim tried to explain he was actually in a relationship with the defendant as far as he understood it,” prosecutor Omar Majid told the court. “That appears to be the trigger for the defendant to become violent.”
What followed was described as “torture” by prosecutors, with Knight, Ace, and two teenage girls who were present in the flat engaging in the attack.
Knight started by throwing food and water at the victim, then proceeded to punch and kick him until he fell to the ground, while one of the group recorded the attack on their phone.
The teen managed to text his brother asking for help, including the location of the apartment, before the attack worsened.
Knight ordered the teen to strip, dragged him around the apartment, and threatened to “rape and burn him,” before using a lighter and aerosol can to set fire to his hair.
The group then robbed the teen, taking his cellphone and money, before Knight took a wire, placed it around the victim’s neck, and started to strangle him with it, Majid told the court.
“[Knight] then put him in a headlock while ‘Ace’ kicked him in the face,” Majid continued. “They dragged him into the bathroom and made him sit in the bath in cold water and threw cigarette ends at him.”
Knight and Ace left the apartment to buy drugs, at which point one of the teenage girls — a 15-year-old with whom Knight had been ordered not to associate — poured boiling water on the victim. Upon his return, Knight threatened to stab and kidnap the victim.
The teen’s brother, who had been unable to reach him, called police. After they arrived at the apartment, Knight claimed that he had found the victim already suffering from his wounds outside a shop and had brought him home.
The court was shown footage of officers talking to the 17-year-old victim, who was visibly shaken and trying not to cry. He confirmed that Knight and the others in the apartment were his attackers.
In a statement read to the court, the teen said the attack had “broken” him, that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that he struggled to sleep in case he dreamt about the attack.
Knight’s lawyer, Lawrence Selby, attempted to excuse Knight’s behavior by saying he’d had a “troubled upbringing” and had been diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and a personality disorder.
The court was shown the cellphone footage of the attack, which Knight reportedly refused to watch. Selby said it was because Knight felt “genuine remorse.”
“Once he has had it explained to him the impact of his behavior he says he feels disgusted and shame for his actions,” Selby said.
He also said that the attack wasn’t a hate crime, because it was “not motivated by the victim’s sexuality but [Knight’s] own sexuality,” with which Knight was allegedly struggling.
Judge Heidi Kubik disagreed, ruling that the attack was a hate crime and sentencing Knight to three years and eight months in prison.
“This clearly was a homophobic attack upon the victim. He was subjected to homophobic abuse by the group including yourself,” Kubik said. “The fact you chose to join in because of your own repressed sexuality or feelings does not prevent this being an offence within the meaning of the act.”
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