The Matthew Shepard Act, in full named the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is an action of Congress that was passed in Oct. 2009 by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. The law boosts the 1969 federal hate-crime law concerning bias-motivated crimes, or race hate that includes but is not limited to include crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity, actual or perceived gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
Three men from two separately known alleged “hate” groups were sentenced for their roles in a 2011 New Year’s Eve attack in accordance with this law.
On August 7, Michal Gunar, 29, of East Windsor, New Jersey, was sentenced to 33 months in prison. His codefendant, Kyle Powell, 24, of West Collingswood, New Jersey, was sentenced to 15 months behind bars.
Both men were known members of the Aryan Terror Brigade (ATB) and were arrested in December 2012 along with Christopher Ising, 31, of Waretown, who was a disciple of another New Jersey-based white supremacist organization known as the Atlantic City “Skinheads”. Gunar and Powell were both sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano on August 7 and Ising learned his fate two days later in federal Court in Trenton.
Gunar and Ising had previously pleaded guilty to an indictment charging them with conspiracy to commit a hate crime assault, as well as the actual commission of a hate crime assault. Powell only pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit a hate crime assault which resulted in his slighter sentence and the shortened period of incarceration.
Based on the original allegations, the three men along with other like-minded individuals were reveling together at what has been labeled a “meet and greet” occasion for white supremacists that was being held in East Brunswick, NJ at Mr. Ising’s home.
Court reports demonstrated that at the conclusion of the event, the three men and other party goers, propelled by alcohol and white supremacist music drove to a nearby apartment complex located in the neighboring town of Sayreville. They were psyched up and it appeared that their principal objective was to assault random non-Caucasian individuals.
Ising, who had brass knuckles in his possession, and Gunar, flaunting a large knife, hauled one of their victims out of a parked car that was located in the apartment complex’s parking lot, according to the indictment. At that time, a friend of the victim ran to his aid. He too was then attacked.
The first of their targets was beaten in the head and repeatedly punched in the face as Gunar allegedly hollered, “show me your faces you Arab sand niggers,” Ising attacked the second man punching him in the head, using the brass knuckles he brought along specifically for the occasion. Powell was not involved in the actual assault but purportedly stood in close proximity observing; as the assault was carried out. Both victims were of Egyptian descent. Their names have been withheld and have only been referred to as M.H. and R.M.
Following the attack the two thugs returned to Ising’s house where Gunar bragged about the attack on his Facebook page and posted a pair of bloodied pants. Later that week he posted the racial slur, previously mentioned above and wrote “it was me and my other bro on like 6 or eight and we whooped them”
According to Wikipedia a “hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other designated sector of society.”
The FBI labels hate groups whose “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”
Both the Aryan Terror Brigade and Atlantic City Skinheads are acknowledged as being part of the neo-Nazi Blood and Honor Network, which currently has been making a concerted effort to reconstruct the associates amid street hate groups, using white power concerts, events and rallies as their means.
A hate crime is described as a crime where victims are “intentionally selected, in whole or in part, because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation” and will be determined to be a “violent felony offense”, with the “minimum period of the indeterminate sentence shall be not less than twenty years”, according to Laws of New York State (http://ypdcrime.com).
Although the actions of the individuals described in this article seem deplorable, every member of our society is entitled to a vigorous defense of their rights under the law and is assumed innocent until proven guilty. If you are charged with a crime of this type it is essential that you immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in federal legalities and these types of allegations.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer who has tried a multitude of cases throughout his 35 year career. He has offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida as well as New York City and is a member in good standing of both the Florida and New York Bars. He is also admitted to practice law in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York and the Eleventh Circuit which includes the State of Florida.
If you require a criminal defense attorney in the Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or West Palm Beach area, Mr. Cohen’s office can provide you with the skilled representation you need.
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2014 edition of “Best Lawyers in America”
To read about all of Mr. Cohen honors and qualifications and find out what steps you should take if an investigation has initiated or an arrest has been made, please click here
Contact Mr. Cohen by email or call him at 954-928-0059