A gay Atlanta man severely burned in a homophobic attack now is fighting with a relative who is withholding thousands of dollars in donations raised during an online campaign to help pay for his medical expenses.
Diyawn Jackson launched a Go Fund Me campaign in the wake of the Feb. 12 attack that hospitalized her cousin, Anthony Gooden (photo), for nearly five weeks, including two weeks in a coma. A man dating Gooden's mother allegedly poured boiling water on Gooden and his then boyfriend Marquez Tolbert as they slept on a mattress in the living room of a College Park apartment.
Both men were seriously injured, suffering second- and third-degree burns on their faces, necks, backs and upper torsos. After the attack received national attention in mid March, thousands of people donated nearly $140,000 to the two men through two Go Fund Me campaigns – $68,503 to Tolbert and $70,655 to Gooden. Gay Atlanta also hosted two fundraisers – on March 27 at Woof's and April 2 during the Atlanta Bucks Rugby match.
But by late March, the fund for Gooden was deactivated. Jackson told WSB that she shut down the effort to protect herself from tax liability and Gooden from relatives she says would misuse the funds.
But Gooden, facing more than $178,000 in medical bills from Grady Memorial Hospital, said Jackson has given him just $12,000 of the donations, according to WSB. Jackson said she's given Gooden more than half of the money.
“There’s nothing to talk about. You’ve got my account number. You’ve got my routing number. Give me my money,” Gooden told WSB. “She is still holding onto my money. I haven't received all my money and I want something to take place because I need it.”
Jackson had nothing but excuses when WSB reached her.
Jackson told Channel 2 she wants to meet with Gooden to sign an agreement releasing her from any liability. She recently shut down the GoFundMe page and hired an attorney.
“My thing is my name was on that account, and I don’t want any repercussions on me for misappropriating the funds,” Jackson said.
Martin Luther Blackwell, 48, was arrested shortly after the attack. He was indicted March 25 on eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault for his alleged role in the incident. A week later, on March 31, he pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance. Blackwell remains in the Fulton County Jail without bond.
Blackwell allegedly told College Park police that he couldn't stand to see the two men sleeping together.
“They was stuck together like two hot dogs, so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out,” Blackwell told investigators. “They was stuck like two hot dogs. They'll be alright, it was just a little hot water.”
The FBI has said it looked into the assault to see if Blackwell could be charged under the federal hate crime law since Georgia is one of five states without such a law. An FBI spokesperson declined to discuss the status of the agency's investigation on Monday and referred calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office. A spokesperson was not immediately available.