FBI, DA say no hate crime charges for Marines

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READ MORE | Follow our coverage of the gay beating cases in Savannah

imageThe FBI and the District Attorney in Savannah have both decided against pursuing the June beating of a gay man by two Marines as a hate crime, leaving in place misdemeanor charges for the alleged assailants.

That means Christopher Stanzel, 23 (second photo), and Keil Cronauer (bottom photo), 22, will appear before a state court judge on Sept. 9 to face misdemeanor charges for their alleged role in the June 12 beating of Kieran Daly in downtown Savannah. The attack provoked outrage as well a fissure among LGBT activists in the coastal city, prompted some to launch a new LGBT organization, and attracted more than 120 people to a rally in its wake.

imageOn Wednesday, the FBI said that the Justice Department finished its review of the case and opted against pursuing hate crime charges, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The FBI opened a preliminary investigation into the attack to see if it would be prosecuted under a new federal hate crimes law.

The announcement from the FBI followed a report last week that the District Attorney in Savannah decided weeks ago to stick with the original misdemeanor battery charges filed when the two Marines were arrested.

Stephen Emmett, spokesman for the FBI in Atlanta, said Wednesday the Justice Department opted against pursuing hate-crime charges after reviewing the case.

“The matter now rests with local authorities,” Emmett said.

imageAlicia Johnson, a spokesperson for Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm, told the GA Voice that a review of the case and Daly’s medical records showed that the attack had “no merit” to be considered a hate crime.

“I can’t speak on the specifics because this is pending litigation, but for a crime to be considered a felony [which a hate crime is considered to be] there has to be proof of a sustained injury,” Johnson said.

“It’s my understanding Daly suffered only a punch. Based on his medical records we could not upgrade the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.”

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the Marines could face less than a year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,200, she added.

Daly (top photo) was knocked unconscious, suffered bruising on his brain and had two seizures during the June 12 incident. His friends say they were joking with Cronauer and Stanzel before the situation took a violent turn. The two men say they were being harassed by Daly.

Cronauer and Stanzel were arrested within minutes of the attack when a police officer found the two men hiding in an empty lot between two buildings, out of breath from having fled the scene, according to a police report. But after the attack, Daly declined additional interview with police investigators and would not release his medical record. He also skipped a rally in his honor amid reports that he was involved in a road rage incident earlier this year.

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