Jul 13, 2013 4:38 PM by katc
A Louisiana prosecutor says he won't pursue hate crime charges against a black man accused of beating a white man and telling the victim he was in "the wrong neighborhood."
The Advocate reports that Donald Ray Dickerson, 41, is charged with assaulting the man at a Baton Rouge gas station in May.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Friday that he'll prosecute Dickerson as a habitual offender, instead of hate crime charges.
Moore says Dickerson faces a much longer sentence under the habitual offender law and the victim supported his decision.
Under the state's habitual offender law, Moore said a defendant can be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when someone is convicted of four felonies - at least two of which are crimes of violence.
Dickerson, who had recently been released from federal prison at the time of the attack, has previously been convicted of purse snatching, carnal knowledge of a juvenile and armed robbery.
Online jail records didn't list an attorney's name.
Moore had considered charging Dickerson with a hate crime "enhancement" to second-degree battery because of the racial overtones of the attack. A hate crime conviction in Louisiana enhances a felony sentence by up to five years, but prosecutors say it can be challenging to prove a crime was motivated by a suspect's bias.
Prosecutors have filed charges of second-degree battery against Dickerson in the gas station attack. He also faces a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.
The beating happened about 11 p.m. on May 12 at a Chevron station on Scenic Highway in north Baton Rouge.
Dickerson is accused of knocking the white man unconscious after telling him he was "in the wrong neighborhood and he was not going to make it out," according to court filings.
Two other suspects, Devin Bessye, 24, and Ashley Simmons, 22, allegedly struck the man's wife and 14-year-old daughter. Both were issued summonses for simple battery, a misdemeanor.
Provisional Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. has said the officers who decided not to book Bessye and Simmons into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison were counseled for an "error in judgment."
Baton Rouge police Lt. Don Kelly has said officers did not feel there was probable cause for Dickerson to be booked with a hate crime in the attack. Under state law, a hate crime occurs when a person selects a victim "because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry ..."
A witness, Mykeisha Henderson, has said the assault began with Dickerson teasing the victim about wearing a pink shirt, but she did not recall hearing any remarks from Dickerson about the white man being in the "wrong neighborhood."