Cleveland police have arrested a 16-year-old in connection with a Labor Day weekend attack at a gay bar, but he will likely not face a hate-crime charge because Ohio law does not cover crimes based on sexual orientation.
The youth, whose name was not released because he is under 18, was charged this week with suspected robbery in connection with the September 1 assault on Jared Fox, 28, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer reports. Fox was walking into Cocktails, a gay club, when a group of young people beat him and stole his wallet and cell phone.
Ohio’s hate-crimes law allows enhanced charges only on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin. However, judges are able to consider other factors, including whether the crime was motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, in sentencing, a prosecutor told the Plain Dealer.
A Cleveland city ordinance allows for hate-crime enhancement on crimes based on sexual orientation, but it applies only to misdemeanors, and the charge against the youth is a felony.
Police recently arrested a 13-year-old in connection with another incident at Cocktails. On the evening of September 6, several young boys threw rocks onto the bar’s back patio, using antigay slurs while doing so. The 13-year-old was arrested the same night.
Bar manager James Foster told the Plain Dealer he hopes police will soon arrest others involved in both attacks.