Thanksgiving, for most people, is a time for families to come together and celebrate. Not so for Travis Hawkins Jr., the 18-year-old that gave a horrific beating to his sister’s girlfriend in what the family of the victim is saying was a hate crime.
Mallory Owens, age 23, is in recovery from her injuries at a hospital in Mobile, Alabama. She has had to undergo reconstructive surgery for crushed cheekbones and her injuries include bleeding from the brain, a broken nose and skull fractures. Before and after photos below. WARNING: the after photo is a graphic depiction of the damage caused by this violent act. I would suggest keeping children out of the room.
Travis Hawkins, Jr.
If the beating was, as the family claims, based on sexual orientation, it is still unlikely that it would be prosecuted as a hate crime by the state justice system. While Alabama has a law regarding hate crimes, sexual orientation is not included in the definition, which specifies “race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability.” The good news is that Congress has a definition of a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Also, as the FBI website states,
A hate crime is not a distinct federal offense. However, the federal government can and does investigate and prosecute crimes of bias as civil rights violations, which do fall under its jurisdiction. These efforts serve as a backstop for state and local authorities, which handle the vast majority of hate crime cases. A 1994 federal law also increased penalties for offenses proven to be hate crimes.
In 2009, the passage of a new law—the first significant expansion of federal criminal civil rights law since the mid-1990s—gave the federal government the authority to prosecute violent hate crimes, including violence and attempted violence directed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, to the fullest extent of its jurisdiction. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act also provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes.
In a statement to Addicting Info, a family friend and community activist, Sonia Mason, stated that the victim, Mallory Owens, was invited to the home of her girlfriend (Allie Hawkins) for Thanksgiving dinner, and “at some point the 18 year old brother became violent, straddled Mallory and pummeled her unconscious.” Sonia also made a statement that seemed to be the general consensus regarding the criminal charges involved, “We feel this charge is certainly not adequate.”
Even if the crime weren’t sparked by sexual orientation I would be inclined to agree. I asked Sonia what the motivation was behind the attack, because the while the family has stated that it was because of his disapproval of the same-sex relationship, it seems like there would have had to have been something that happened at the time in order to spark the attack. However, she said that, “to my knowledge no reasons for the attack were given outside the attacker’s history of bipolar disorder and rage.” I have not independently confirmed that statement.
I also felt it would be appropriate to ask whether the family of the attacker, and the victim’s girlfriend, had made a statement supporting either the victim or defending the attack. Unfortunately, I was told that, “the family has harassed the victim mother in phone calls and texts to take down his pictures from FB and to stop pursuing the charges.”
Yahoo reports on a Change.org petition regarding the lack of sufficient prosecution in the case,
A petition is currently available on Change.org that is asking Ashley Rich, the Mobile County District Attorney, to bring Travis Hawkins, Jr. to justice. It has reached 1,500 signatures as of the morning of Monday, November 26. Among the comments from signers of the petition include this observance from Meredith Grant, “Because of the brutality and nature of the assault, if this young man is not held accountable for this, it will be a mockery of justice and he, more than likely, will continue to batter women. Mallory’s injuries are severe, and the punishment should be likewise.”
Word of this travesty of justice must get out if we expect things like this to change.