Two Texas men involved in a brutal hate crime assault on a gay black man – called “heinous violence” by the Justice Department –– were sentenced Wednesday to serve 15 years in federal prison.
Ramiro Serrata Jr., 23, and Jimmy Garza, 33, pleaded guilty in September 2015 to conspiracy to commit hate crimes and a second count of violating the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act for causing bodily injury because of the victim’s sexual orientation.
During the March 8, 2012, assault, the defendants punched and kicked the man in an apartment before assaulting him with various weapons, including a frying pan, a mug, a sock filled with batteries, a broom and a belt, authorities said.
Serrata and Garza admitted calling the victim “gay” and using other racial and homophobic slurs. As they repeatedly whipped the victim with a belt, they called him a “slave” and made other references to slavery, investigators said.
As the assault continued, the assailants poured bleach on the victim’s face and eyes, and Garza struck the victim in the head with a handgun. When the victim began to bleed, the attackers forced him to remove all of his clothing and clean up his blood splatter throughout the apartment. After he was naked, investigators said, Garza pointed a gun at the victim while Serrata sodomized him with a broom handle.
Both men acknowledged they prevented the man from leaving the apartment by physical force and threats of force during the assault. Eventually, the bloodied victim escaped by jumping out of a window of the apartment and running until he was discovered by the police.
The victim of the attack told the court that he has recurring nightmares.
"I am two-fold devastated by the hateful nature of the attack," the victim said, according to the Caller Times in Corpus Christi. "Firstly, as a homosexual man in America, to be sodomized, in and of itself is egregious; but even more degrading was, as an African American, to be whipped like a slave."
Senior U.S. District Judge Hayden Head told the defendants they had abandoned their humanity to the viciousness of animals. He said the 15-year sentences were not only to punish the defendants, but to send a message that such inhuman criminal behavior won’t be tolerated.
“I cannot imagine the brutality it must take to commit the crime you committed,” Hayden told the defendants. “This type of brutality ... words fail me except to say it's inhuman and disgusting.”
Both men were ordered to pay $10,800 in restitution, serve three years of supervised release and register as sex offenders.
“Today’s sentencing makes clear that assaults based on bias and hate will not be tolerated in this nation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
A third defendant, Carlos Garcia Jr., pleaded guilty on Jan. 5, 2016, to one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. He faces a maximum sentence of five years when sentenced in March.