A Michigan man plead guilty to a federal hate crimes charge after admitting that he punched a stranger in the face because he believed the man was gay, the U.S. Justice Department reported Wednesday.
"Hate-fueled incidents have no place in a civilized society," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in a press release. "The Justice Department is committed to using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to prosecute acts of violence motivated by hate."
On March 7, 2011, Everett Dwayne Avery, 36, struck Justin Alesna, 23 in the face while the two were customers at a Detroit convenience store. Alesna was standing in line behind Avery, who told Alesna he was standing too close. Alesna backed up, but Avery continued hurling antigay slurs at Alesna.
After Alesna purchased his cigarettes, he tried to leave the store, where Avery again confronted him with epithets and allegedly showed Alesna the gun he was carrying. Avery then punched Alesna in the face, fracturing his eye socket and inducing other facial injuries.
Alesna filmed a video recounting the attack, his wounds still clearly visible on-screen. In that video, Alesna alleges that bystanders, including store employees, did nothing to intervene and even laughed during the attack. Alesna said that when he asked the store clerk to call the police, the clerk refused and told Avery to "Kill it, bro." Watch that video below, with the disclaimer that it contains graphic, homophobic language.
"The only way that it gets better," said Alesna in the video, "the only way that we can assure that shit like this doesn't happen is by standing up. Is by speaking out. Is by actually doing something to try to make our society better."
Avery faces up to ten years in prison. He will be sentenced on November 28.