US: Man pleads guilty to brutal homophobic kidnapping, hate crime charge dropped

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Prosecutors have dropped a hate crime charge against a man who brutally assaulted a victim he found on a gay hookup app, after he plead guilty to kidnapping.

Brice Johnson, 19, from North Texas, this week pleaded guilty to a kidnapping charge, admitting to abducting and beating the man, who he met through an online gay hookup app.

According to reports, prosecutors have agreed to drop the hate crime charge that Johnson faced for the assault against victim Arron Keahey, in exchange for the guilty plea.

Court documents state that Johnson found the 24-year-old on app MeetMe in September last year, before beating him in the head, tying him up, and putting him in the boot of his car.

Keahey suffered from multiple broken bones, lost teeth and some nerve damage in the attack, and was hospitalised for ten days.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels said: “This was a senseless act of brutal violence that has no place in a civilized society.

“We are hopeful that today’s guilty plea brings some sense of justice for the victim and makes clear that the Department of Justice is committed to using every tool available to vindicate the rights of victims of violent crimes.

“The department will continue to work with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate hate crime allegations throughout the country.”

US District Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña said: “Violent crimes of this nature will not be tolerated, and I commend the victim for his continued cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of this reprehensible conduct.”

Johnson, who will be sentenced on November 17, could face up to life in prison and a $250,000 (£147,000) fine.

Hate crime laws were introduced in Texas in 2001, but conviction rates are incredibly low.