A man who threw boiling water over a sleeping gay couple will face a federal hate crime investigation – as the state has no hate crime laws.
Georgia couple Anthony Gooden, 23, and Marquez Tolbert, 21 were left with horrific burns after the incident on February 12.
48-year-old Martin Luther Blackwell – who was dating Mr Gooden’s mother – allegedly threw boiling water over the pair while they were sleeping because of their sexuality.
Mr Tolbert was hospitalised for ten days after the attack, while Mr Gooden was only released from hospital five weeks later. Both were left with horrific burns over their bodies and have suffered immense pain.
Blackwell allegedly admitted that he carried out the attack because he didn’t like the idea of the two men sleeping together – but as Georgia does not have LGBT hate crime laws, he was charged with two counts of aggravated battery.
However, this week the FBI opened a federal investigation into the incident – which means Blackwell could face federal hate crime charges despite the lack of state anti-gay laws.
Stephen Emmett, spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Atlanta office, confirmed the FBI “has initiated a federal civil rights-based investigation to determine whether the federal hate crime statute will apply”.
Mr Tolbert said previously: We woke up to boiling hot water. I started screaming uncontrollably and I was pulled out of the house. We ran to the neighbours and called the police.”
“We were just burning. My body was just stinging. It was like a really, really severe kind of stinging.
He added: “The pain,… you can’t sleep at night.”
“The pain doesn’t let you sleep… It’s excruciating, 24 hours a day. It doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t dial down. It’s just there.”
“It’s a shame that our society places that kind of fear in a parent’s heart,” said Tolbert’s mother Jaya of the attack.
“It gives you a feeling of helplessness, and when it actually occurs, you lose hope.”
A crowdfunding page to help pay for Gooden’s medical bills has raised over $44,000.