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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 13, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 46
30-month federal hate crime sentence in Capitol Hill knife attack
Section One
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30-month federal hate crime sentence in Capitol Hill knife attack

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Crimes against people, such as assault, muggings, malicious harassment always seem to spike in the summer. But 2015 was different. While crimes against people did not necessarily rise in January and February of this year, bias crimes (hate crimes) did.

One of the incidents that made headlines and led to a town hall conversation attended by over 300 people to address crime in the LGBTQ neighborhood of Capitol Hill happened January 25.

On that date, Troy Deacon Burns threatened three men with a knife while yelling homophobic slurs near Harvard and E. Pike. According to investigators, Burns had been living in shelters, is addicted to drugs, and was on Capitol Hill to sell meth the night of the crime.

The cops were called and SPD swooped in and made an arrest. Not every incident ends the same way. Luckily, for the victims of this incident the story not only shows an arrest was made but that a prosecution in a federal courtroom happened, too.

The Department of Justice announced Monday afternoon that Burns, 38, was convicted of a federal hate crime for the January attack on Capitol Hill and has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail. Burns faced up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Because the knife 'travelled in interstate commerce,' prosecutors were able to charge the defendant in federal court.

The DOJ announcement reads:
A Bremerton, Washington, man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison following his conviction of a federal hate crime, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington.

Troy Deacon Burns, 38, was charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Burns pleaded guilty on Aug. 5, 2015, and admitted that just after midnight on Jan. 25, 2015, he attacked three gay men who were walking in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Burns admitted in his plea agreement that he came up behind the three men and shouted homophobic slurs. Burns then raised a knife over his head in a stabbing position. Fearing for their safety, the men started running. As Burns caught up to one of the men, he again used a slur and attempted to stab the man. One of the other men was able to pull his friend away from Burns. The third man located Seattle police officers who took Burns into custody. While detained in the police car, Burns continued to yell homophobic slurs. During the plea hearing, Burns said he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the assault and claimed that he does not remember his actions.

'The Department of Justice will continue to vigilantly protect the rights of victims who are targeted simply because of their sexual orientation,' said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. 'Six years have passed since the enactment of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and it continues to serve as an important tool for federal law enforcement.'

'No one should have to fear attack because of their sexual orientation when they walk down the streets of the cities and towns in Western Washington,' said U.S. Attorney Hayes. 'The U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to working closely with the Civil Rights Division to ensure cases like this are prosecuted and that the common decency that is at the heart of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is respected by all.'

The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake of the Western District of Washington and Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division. The King County, Washington, Prosecuting Attorney's Office provided significant assistance with the case as well.

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