The FBI won't pursue federal hate crime charges against Martin Blackwell, the truck driver sentenced to 40 years in prison for pouring boiling water on a gay Atlanta couple.
The decision came after a jury found Blackwell guilty on 10 charges for the Feb. 12 attack on Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden. The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes on Aug. 24 before delivering its verdict. Fulton Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk then sentenced Blackwell (photo) to 40 years in prison.
The incident severely burned Gooden and Tolbert, and the injuries included several surgeries and skin grafts. Tolbert was hospitalized for 10 days, while Gooden was placed in a coma and remained in the hospital for nearly six weeks.
The FBI said in March that it was looking into the case to see if Blackwell could be charged under the federal hate crime law. Georgia has no hate crime law and the federal statute sets a high burden for crimes involving LGBT victims – a point U.S. Attorney John Horn made during a town hall with LGBT organizers and activists in late July.
On Friday, an FBI spokesperson told the Associated Press that the agency won't pursue additional charges.
The FBI opened a hate crime investigation after the February attack. But spokesman Kevin Rowson said Friday that with Blackwell sentenced in state court, the agency decided not to pursue the case.
But U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and David Cicilline – co-chairs of the House LGBT Caucus – said Blackwell should face federal charges and urged the FBI to take action in a letter to FBI Director James Comey on Friday.
Although Mr. Blackwell has been convicted of assault, Georgia does not have a hate crime statute, meaning this crime could not be recorded or prosecuted as such. This sentence fails to satisfy the public interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence, and fails to secure substantial justice, and we thank you for investigating this case to ensure that justice is served.
[h/t Georgia Voice]