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South Carolina Justice


dude

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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. -- A man who threw a fatal punch after using an anti-gay slur pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday and was sentenced to less than three years in prison.

Stephen Moller was charged in the death of Sean Kennedy in May of 2007.

Moller served about seven months in jail and was released on bond after his charges were downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

On Wednesday, a judge sentenced Moller to five years in prison, suspended to three years and with seven less months for time served.

Moller and Kennedy were outside Brews bar on Pelham Road when Moller used a slur and punched Kennedy, who was openly gay.

Kennedy fell to the ground and hit his head on the pavement. He died about 20 hours later.

Death Leads To Push For New Legislation

When Moller's charge was reduced months ago, Sean Kennedy's mother, Elke Kennedy, said her son's death and the way Moller was charged is another example of why South Carolina needs hate crime legislation.

Without the hate crime legislation, there was no legal precedent for a stiffer charge.

In South Carolina, a murder conviction carries a sentence of 30 years to life in prison. The sentence for involuntary manslaughter ranges from zero to five years in prison. States with hate crime legislation can impose tougher sentences.

When the charged was reduced, Solicitor Bob Arail issued a written statement saying: "We understand and agree with the concerns of the Kennedy family that the available punishment for this crime is inadequate. The five-year maximum punishment allowed by law for involuntary manslaughter is not sufficient in Sean's death ... However, the actions of the Grand Jury are correct under the law and our concern should turn to correcting the law."

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In some places, people will still fight for injustice to the bitter end.

C

In the hope that there will be no bitter end at all. They have my admiration. Of course I mentally edited your comment to read, "...still fight for justice..."

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This was a hate crime... plain and simple! While South Carolina recoginzes other minorities as hate crime victims... it does not include sexual orrientations.

Result you can kill a gay person in a homophobic attack and get a minimum sentence.

This is the reality of South Carolina and much of of the USA.

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I see both sides of this. On the one hand, why should a distinction be made for any kind of manslaughter or murder? Just because it was racially motivated, or a hate crime, someone is still dead. You can make a good argument that for gay people to truly be accepted as equal, they have to be equal under the law, given no advantages or disadvantages than anybody else.

On the other hand: I see a place for anti-hate crime laws when it comes to harrassment and bullying, particularly in schools. To me, this forces the schools to at least educate their students that bullying anybody won't be tolerated, especially if it's related to race, religion, or sexual orientation.

But (you forgive the use of the phrase) this is not a simple black/white situation. Still, I'm shocked that the judge wouldn't give the killer the maximum sentence. Three years is tiddly winks for a crime this serious.

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Judges very rarely give minimum sentences for manslaughter. Usually when they do give a minimum for manslaughter, it was a fight and a close call between self defense or a traffic accident not involving alcohol.

Another method judges use to minimize time served is to suspend part or all of a sentence so I guess we're lucky that this clown is going to get any time at all.

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