Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2004 12:00 AM ET
Three people have been charged with beating three gay men as they were leaving a bar in Morgantown, W.Va. Two of the alleged victims said the incident was a hate crime, but West Virginia's hate-crimes law does not cover crimes committed because of a person's sexual orientation. Arrest warrants were issued Tuesday for Norman Patrick Barb III of Maidsville and James A. Demidovich and John Leslie Erjavek, both of Morgantown, said police chief Robert Lucci. The men were charged with misdemeanor battery, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine. "I told one of the officers that it was a hate crime," said John Matthew Aravanis of Princess Anne, Md., one of the alleged victims. "They said it wasn't
and that they were just drunk."
Aravanis, Christopher James Barnhart of Martinsburg, and Scott Edward Arnold of Clarksburg reported that they were attacked as they were leaving a bar at about 3:30 a.m. on March 1. In a written statement to police, Barnhart said he and his friends heard someone say, "Get out of the way, faggots." Barnhart replied by swearing at the suspects. Within seconds, Barnhart was punched and knocked to the ground. Barnhart, who suffered two facial fractures in the scuffle, said the suspects also struck Aravanis on the head as he came to Barnhart's aid. The suspects left the scene, Barnhart said, but returned and "shoved us down, kicked us, punched me again, and continued to call us faggots." Arnold, whose nose was broken by one punch, called police on his cell phone. Three city police officers responded and found Barb, Demidovich, and Erjavek walking nearby. They were not charged at the time because battery is a misdemeanor, Lucci said. "We're very fortunate to make an arrest, anyway," Lucci said, "because a lot of times we can't in those situations."
Barnhart and Arnold were taken to a hospital for treatment. Aravanis said he suffered a cut ear and some sore ribs. Aravanis said it doesn't matter if the suspects are charged with a hate crime; he just wants his hospital bills paid. "I can't change anyone," Aravanis said. "It's not at the top of my list. But if I could get help with these hospital bills, it'd be great. I don't have insurance."