Update and correction at 4:06PM EST: The Dallas Voice is now reporting that a third man, Mickey Joe Smith, 25, is expected to face the same charges as the other two suspects -- aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault causing bodily injury. The charges are second-degree felonies, punishable by up 20 years in prison, and not first-degree felonies as previously reported.
Since these are not first-degree felonies, having the crime be classified as a hate crime would upgrade the charges to first-degree felonies, which as noted below, are punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
The Dallas Voice spoke to Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young, whose office is handling the cases, who said:
“We’re in the process of receiving all the information as a result of the investigation... We will present all that information to the grand jury, including all the information as to whether it’s a hate crime or not. The grand jury will make a determination whether it [a hate crime] is or isn’t as part of the charge. If their actions of committing the aggravated assault are based on race or sexual orientation or whatever it may be, the grand jury can choose to enhance the offense up a level.”
Two men have been arrested for a shocking attack on a Reno, Texas gay man.
26-year-old Burke Burnett received 30 stitches to close stab wounds on his back and forearms inflicted by a broken beer bottle, reports the Dallas Voice, as well as second-degree burns and severe bruises after being assaulted at a private party on Sunday.
The attackers reportedly screamed slurs like "pussy-ass faggot," "gay bitch," and "cock-sucking punk," as they punched, stabbed, and eventually threw Burnett onto a fire.
Now Daniel Martin, 33, and James "Tray" Mitchell Laster III, 31, have been charged with the assault reports to the Dallas Voice.
But, though Burnett said the officer who investigated the assault told him the attack would be deemed a hate crime, it looks as though it may not be classified as such after all.
Both perpetrators are being charged with one count of aggravated assault with a a deadly weapon, and one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury -- first-degree felonies punishable by five to 99 years in prison the Dallas Voice notes.
Because there is no further penalty for a crime already labeled a first-degree felony if it's also designated a hate crime, it looks doubtful that prosecutors will pursue that route.
The paper reports that Reno police spokeswoman Alicia Myrick said it will be up the Lamar County District Attorney's Office to determine whether the case is prosecuted as a hate crime.
"That’s not our decision," Myrick said.
Burnett is, sadly, one of several gay men who have been attacked and set on fire in recent weeks.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article contained a misspelling of Burnett's last name.