Chester man charged with hate crime for allegedly attacking gay employee at Amazon

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CHESTER, Va. -- The U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia charged James William Hill III, 34, of Chester, with a federal hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for a May 2015 assault on a victim at Amazon’s shipping facility in Chester.

Hill willfully caused bodily injury to the victim by assaulting him because of his actual and perceived sexual orientation, according to the indictment.

Brad Kutner, the editor for GayRVA.com, exclusively interviewed the victim after the alleged attack and said the victim told him he was “pummeled” by Hill.

“The final product was a giant black eye,” Kutner said.

Amazon

Through his reporting, Kutner said he learned there was security video of the incident, and Hill allegedly admitted to doing it because he thought the victim was gay.

“This has fundamentally changed the victim’s life,” Kutner said.

Hill was originally charged by Chesterfield Police with misdemeanor assault, but not a hate crime.

CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone said sexual orientation is not included in Virginia’s hate crime statute.

“Somebody could be charged with a hate crime that involves sexual orientation in the federal system, where as it would not be a criminal offense in the state system,” Stone said.

Brad Kutner, the editor for GayRVA.com

Brad Kutner, the editor for GayRVA.com

The misdemeanor charges were ultimately nolle prosequi and the feds took the case and charged Hill with a hate crime. The hate crime charge upped the potential penalty from a maximum 12 months behind bars, to 10 years in prison.

Kutner said he hoped the charge would help prevent future hate crimes.

“Maybe if other people know that this is what happens when you take these steps and maybe if you see the impact,” Kutner said.

A spokesperson for Amazon pointed us to a statement the company sent to GayRVA.com after the attack.

“Amazon does not tolerate any type of violence, harassment or discrimination in our workplace and we are appalled at the behavior of this now terminated individual.”