TBI and FBI asked to help solve Warren County gay-hate crimes

The ACLU of Tennessee has asked the Warren County District Attorney’s office to request assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in investigating hate crimes against a gay Warren County man.

Neal Anthony, who has been the victim of at least three attacks on his home, remains concerned for his safety and told Out & About Newspaper that he “dreads the nights and weekends” because he is afraid of another attack.

Christine P. Sun, the ACLU of Tennessee LGBT staff attorney, said she had been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the TBI requesting assistance in finding those individuals responsible for the attacks on Anthony’s home.

“I have been in contact with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation,” Sun said. “The FBI has informed me that it would otherwise investigate the crimes but for the unfortunate fact that sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic under the federal hate crimes statute. The TBI has informed me that it will consider providing additional resources to investigate the hate crimes against Mr. Anthony but only if requested to do so by the Warren County District Attorney’s office.”

Sun has sent a letter to Warren County District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis requesting that her office ask for assistance from the TBI and that the crimes also be reported to the FBI.

Zavogiannis’s office did prosecute three teenagers who admitted to shooting more than 80 paintballs at Anthony’s home, but the Juvenile Court judge who heard the case did nothing more than place the boys placed on probation, ordered to write an apology and mow yards for five weekends.

“If the TBI will not or cannot provide additional resources, at a minimum, we expect that the crimes against Mr. Anthony be reported to the FBI so that it will have accurate statistics concerning the prevalence of hate crimes motivated by anti-gay bias,” Sun said.

A letter that Sun sent to Warren County Sheriff Jackie Matheny asking his office to investigate the hate crimes has not gotten a response. Nor has a request from Anthony to post a reward for help in solving the crimes.

“The frequency and seriousness of the hate crimes against Mr. Anthony are of great concern to the ACLU of Tennessee,” Sun said. “Tennessee state law and the constitution protect Mr. Anthony.”

Sun said the case Scarborough v. Morgan County Board of Education, 470 F.3d 250,261 (6th Cir. 2006) shows that government officials may not treat gay persons differently absent a legitimate state interest.

“We have been working with Mr. Anthony over the last month, and can attest to the fact that he is genuinely afraid that the hate crimes against him will continue to escalate,” Sun said. “We also understand that the Sheriff's Department currently has no leads for the April 2007 spray paint attack, wherein persons covered Mr. Anthony's historic family home with anti-gay slurs such as, "Fags deserve 2 die," "All gays go to hell," and "Queer son of bitch." Mr. Anthony has also notified me that he has still not received a response from the Sheriffs Department concerning his proposal to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the spray paint attack.”

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