FBI Reviews Beating As Possible Hate Crime
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 8, 2003
LINDEN, TEXAS--The Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping local police determine whether last month's beating of Billy Ray Johnson qualifies under federal law as a hate crime.
Various news services reported that Johnson, a 42-year-old black man who has an intellectual disability, was found September 28 in a ditch near a country road in east Texas. He suffered facial and head injuries, including bruising of the brain.
Linden police at first believed Johnson had gotten drunk and fell into the ditch on his own. They later learned that Johnson had been the only black man at a party with 7 to 8 white men on the night he was beaten.
Police now believe the group got Johnson drunk, then one or more of them beat him before dumping him alongside the remote road.
Those who were involved in the assault could face extended sentences under federal hate crime laws if it is determined that the beating was motivated by Johnson's race or disability.
As of Tuesday, Johnson was slowly recovering at Linden Memorial Hospital, according to Linden Police Chief Alton McWaters.
"He's talking but you can't understand what he's saying," McWaters said.
No arrests had been made in the case.
The federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (amended in 1994 and 1996) defines hate crimes as those "against a person or property motivated by bias toward race, religion, ethnicity/national origin, disability, or sexual orientation."
Linden is about 160 miles north of Jasper County, Texas, where James Byrd, another black man with intellectual disabilities, was murdered and then dragged behind a pick-up truck for three miles along a secluded country road in 1998.