By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com February 24 2014 4:14 PM ET
Five months after the brutal beating of a Texas gay man, the accused perpetrator has been charged with a hate crime.
Brice Johnson, 19, of Springtown, which is near Fort Worth, has been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with “willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation,” according to a press release issued last week by the FBI’s Dallas division. Johnson has been in state custody since September 10, charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, but the hate-crime charge was issued February 12.
Johnson is accused of attacking Arron Keahey, 24, also of Springtown, on Labor Day, after the two met via the social networking app MeetMe. According to the FBI, they exchanged messages in which Johnson expressed interest in a sexual encounter with Keahey, then met at Johnson’s home.
The FBI says Johnson beat Keahey and put him into the trunk of a car, then drove him to a friend’s home. Marks on Keahey’s wrists indicate he was bound with an electrical cord while in the trunk, according to the release. Keahey suffered multiple skull and facial fractures, and he was hospitalized for 10 days in Fort Worth.
“The investigation revealed that on the night of the incident, Johnson saved A.K.’s cell phone number using a gay slur as a contact name, and Johnson later stated that he was playing a prank on the victim because of his sexual orientation, again using a gay slur when referring to A.K.,” the release reads. “According to the affidavit, A.K. said that he had no physical contact with Johnson prior to the attack.”
If convicted, Johnson would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the FBI. When he is formally indicted, other charges could be added, potentially increasing the maximum penalty.