A 34-year-old Virginia man who attacked his gay coworker at the Amazon shipping fulfillment center where they worked last May will be charged with a federal hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Investigators determined the assailant, James William Hill III, was triggered by his victim’s “actual and perceived sexual orientation” when he punched the man in the face three to five times, leaving him bloodied on the floor in the packing department of the facility in Chester.
“It all happened so fast I didn’t really know what was going on,” the unnamed victim told GayRVA, adding that he initially thought someone had fallen on him. “[I] turned around and looked at the man and he was just mad. He turned around and walked back to work like nothing happened.”
“The final product was a giant black eye,” GayRVA editor Brad Kutner told WTVR, indicating the entire attack was caught on surveillance footage that is being used to up Hill’s crime from misdemeanor charges to federal hate crime charges, which carry up to a 10-year prison sentence.
Hill was immediately fired in minutes following the incident, and an Amazon representative said the company was “appalled” by the attack in a statement that soon followed.
Virginia does not consider crimes against people based on their sexual orientation hate crimes, but local prosecutors sought to charge Hill with a hate crime under federal jurisdiction due to his extensive criminal history.
At the time of the attack, Hill was reportedly on probation stemming from 2006 charges for using drugs and possessing a firearm as a felon.
Kutner said he hopes the more serious charges will deter people from attacking LGBTs in the future.
“Maybe if other people know that this is what happens when you take these steps and maybe if you see the impact,” he said.