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Two men were scalded by a family friend in a vicious attack in Atlanta, Georgia, but prosecutors can’t push for a hate crime charge as sexual orientation isn’t covered by legislation.
Anthony Gooden and Marquez Tolbert were sleeping in bed together when Martin Blackwell, who is in a relationship with Gooden’s mother, walked into Gooden’s apartment and, upon discovering the two men together, poured boiling hot water on them.
Gooden was hospitalised for almost a month, while Tolbert was hospitalised for 10 days, both at the Grady Memorial Hospital. The pair required surgery including skin grafts to treat their injuries.
Friend Vickie Gray said the couple were then forced out of the house and tried to seek help with neighbours, although the first neighbours they encountered allegedly refused to help them.
‘I have watched Marquez’s mother suffer right along with him,’ said Gray. ‘When he came out to her, she told me that her son being harmed was her greatest fear. It’s a shame that our society places that kind on fear in a parent’s heart. It gives you a feeling of helplessness, and when it acutally occurs, you lose hope. Marquez is home now, but has a long road to recovery. Through it all, he has remained strong and not disheartened by what has happened to him. I am so impressed by his character. He has been focused on healing, and in a way, has been holding up his mother.’
Gooden’s cousin, Diyawn Jackson, said, ‘My family and I were scared for Anthony to come out with his sexual preference in fear that this very hateful act would be brought onto him. But never did we think it would happen in the very place he is supposed to be safe . . . at his own home by someone he trusted. He is on the road to recovery, however, this will be a long road. We as a family are bonding together to do everything in our power to help Anthony during this difficult time, but we are also asking for help from friends and the community.’
Speaking to WSB-TV about his injuries, Tolbert said, ‘The pain doesn’t let you sleep. It’s just, like, it’s excruciating, 24 hours a day, and it doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t dial down, anything. It’s just there.’
Blackwell told reporters he had walked in on the couple having sex, although a friend of the couple disputes this. Blackwell also screamed, ‘Get out of my house [sic] with all that gay shit!’ despite not living at the property.
Blackwell also downplayed his actions, saying, ‘They’ll be all right. It was just a little hot water on them.’
Blackwell has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery. Because the state does not include sexuality within its hate crime laws, he will not be charged for a hate crime under state law. Prosecutors are, however, considering federal hate crime charges instead.
‘Why else would you pour boiling hot water on somebody?’ said Tolbert, who feels the incident does count as a hate crime.
‘I can barely think straight because the burning, the stinging is everywhere,’ said Tolbert.
Only five states in the US have no legislation to cover anti-LGBT hate crimes: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming.
Gooden and Tolbert both have GoFundMe pages to help cover the costs of their medical treatment.