Man pleads guilty to assault in gay man’s death
A Washington DC man has pleaded guilty to assaulting a gay man who later died from his injuries.
Robert Hannah, 19, was initially charged with manslaughter over the death of Tony Randolph Hunter but this was reduced to one charge of misdemeanor assault as part of a plea bargain arrangement offered by prosecutors.
In exchange for the guilty plea, a charge of shoplifting against Hannah has been dropped.
Hunter, from Maryland, died several days after being punched in the head by Hannah while walking to a gay bar with a friend. The incident happened on September 10th 2008.
As Hunter fell, he hit his head on the pavement, causing a fatal brain injury.
The victim and a friend were on their way to a local gay bar. The friend said the attack had been unprovoked.
Hannah claimed Hunter had tried to come on to him and touched his groin and buttocks, which he said led to the assault. Hunter’s friend said he did not see the victim touch Hannah.
The defendant was with two other men at the time, one of who backed up his statement, while the other said he had not seen the alleged sexual touching.
Gay groups have claimed Hannah used the gay panic defence and this was believed by the jury. They have also questioned why Hannah’s witness seem to be believed over Hunter’s friend and why the charge had been reduced.
Police and the US attorney’s office said last autumn that there was enough evidence to bring a manslaughter charge against Hannah.
However, a grand jury dismissed that charge and instead indicted Hannah on the assault charge.
The assault charge carries a maximum term of 180 days in prison. Sentencing will take place on October 18th.