Does the WV hate crimes law apply to sexual orientation? WV Supreme Court considered today

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Here is some of the first reporting on today’s oral argument in the WV Supreme Court.  The Court considered the hate crimes statute’s application in a case where the defendant assaulted two men he saw kissing.

Here’s the case summary: 

State of West Virginia v. Steward Butler, No. 16-0543 – Petitioner appeals the circuit court’s order finding that West Virginia Code § 61-6-21(b) does not extend to create a criminal offense for violation of an individual’s civil rights by threat of violence based on sexual orientation. Further, petitioner contends that the circuit court improperly dismissed portions of the indictment based upon this Court’s refusal to hear a Certified Question.


More than two years after a former Marshall University football player was first charged with punching two men he’d seen kissing on a Huntington sidewalk, the state Supreme Court is taking up the question of whether Steward Butler can be charged with a hate crime under West Virginia law.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in Charleston.

“This is a violation of civil rights because of sex and the state should have been allowed to take this to a jury,” said Lauren Plymale, Cabell County assistant prosecuting attorney.
In early April 2015, Huntington Police said Butler was in a passing car when he spotted the two men on a 9th Street sidewalk.
The criminal complaint alleged Butler exited the car, shouted homophobic slurs at the men and then punched the victims, Zackary Johnson and Casey Williams.
Originally, Butler was charged with two misdemeanor battery charges. Later, he was indicted on two additional counts for alleged violations of civil rights.
In May 2016, Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell ruled that Butler could not be charged with felony hate crimes under current state law which prohibits civil rights violations based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.



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