In February 2016, a vicious attack on two sleeping gay men, Anthony Gooden, 23, and Marquez Tolbert, 21, was perpetrated by Martin Luther Blackwell, 48, in College Park, Georgia near Atlanta. Tolbert and Gooden had returned from their warehouse job and went to sleep on a mattress in Gooden’s mother’s living room. While the couple was sleeping, Blackwell took a pot of boiling water and poured it over the pair. “We woke up to boiling hot water. I started screaming uncontrollably and I was pulled out of the house. We ran to the neighbors and called the police. We were just burning. My body was just stinging. It was like a really, really severe kind of stinging. I could hardly think straight,” said Tolbert.
The men suffered second- and third-degree burns on their necks, backs and arms, and were rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital. Blackwell was dating Gooden’s mother and did not live at the apartment but he told police investigators that he just couldn’t stand to see the two gay men sleeping together. He is quoted as telling the police, ”They was stuck together like two hot dogs, so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out. They was stuck like two hot dogs. They’ll be all right; it was just a little hot water.”
Blackwell was initially charged with aggravated battery for the assault and now he has finally learned his fate. On Wednesday of this week, Blackwell was convicted of ten counts of aggravated assault and aggravated battery and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. During the trial, his defense attorney stated he deserved to be punished, but asked jurors to find that it was reckless conduct. According to defense attorney Monique Walker, “It’s not about hate. It’s about old-school culture, old-school thinking.” In addition, she stated of the situation that the young men’s behavior was disrespectful and that there were certain things people sharing a house should not do. These arguments failed to sway the jury during the sentencing and the family was happy with the outcome of the trial. Although many called the attack a hate crime, Georgia does not have any hate crime laws currently. However, the FBI opened a hate crime investigation against Blackwell for the attack in March 2016 and he also faces further charges pending the conclusion of the federal investigation.