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Prosecutors won't press hate crime charges in Baton Rouge beating

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's office decided against prosecuting an African-American man for hate crimes in the beating of a Caucasian man at a Baton Rouge gas station. Prosecutors said they just didn't have enough evidence to prove that race was the motivating factor for the beating.

As noted in a previous post in May, the incident occurred at a Scenic Highway Chevron station, where the victim had stopped to fill the tank in his family's car. As the man waited in line to pay for the gas, the suspect allegedly began deriding the way he was dressed and told him he was "in the wrong neighborhood." Police said the suspect attacked the man, beating him until he was unconscious.

The man's wife and 14-year-old daughter were in the family car and tried to rush to the man's aide, but two other people allegedly attacked them. Those two others were charged with simple misdemeanor battery.

Prosecutors originally suspected a racial motive behind the attack, but recently said that they had insufficient evidence to support hate crime charges. A witness said she heard the alleged attacker make fun of the man's shirt, but did not hear remarks against the man's race. Under Louisiana law, hate crimes must be motivated by the attacker's bias against the victim's "actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry."

Even without the hate crime charges, the suspect still faces felony charges of second-degree battery. The man also faces charges for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender. The district attorney has said the man will likely be charged as a habitual offender, which will increase his penalties. The man could be sentenced to life in prison.

Source: The Advocate, "DA decides against hate crime in gas station beating," Jim Mustian, July 12, 2013