A Georgia man who poured boiling hot water on a sleeping gay couple has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Jurors convicted Martin Blackwell of aggravated battery and aggravated assault Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court, the Associated Press reports. Judge Henry Newkirk, in pronouncing sentence, said Blackwell’s attack in February on couple Anthony Gooden and Marquez Tolbert was both targeted and preventable — not an offshoot of so-called “reckless behavior,” as Blackwell’s defense attorney argued.
"You had so many outs where the voice of reason could have taken over," said the judge, who noted that it "takes a long time" for a pot of water to boil.
Blackwell faced up to 80 years in prison. While Georgia has no hate-crimes law, LGBT-inclusive or otherwise, the FBI has opened a hate-crimes investigation into the attack under federal law.
Gooden and Tolbert were severely burned in the attack and said in court they still required assistance in many aspects of their lives months after the attack.
Blackwell was in a relationship with Gooden's mother, who shared an Atlanta apartment with her son. At the time of his arrest, Blackwell had said he couldn't stand the sight of Gooden and Tolbert together. Tolbert told a local TV station that during the attack, Blackwell said, “Get out of my house with all that gay.” And police said Blackwell told them of the couple, “They was stuck together like two hot dogs, so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out.”
In attacks against LGBT people, sentencing varies widely from state to state, case to case. In New York, two men who beat a young gay man while he was walking home — punching his face until they left him permanently blind in one eye—only received 150 hours of community service for the crime.