Ramiro Serrata Jr., 23, and Jimmy Garza, 33, were each sentenced to 15 years in prison following their convictions of hate crime offenses for their roles in a Mar. 8, 2012, assault of a gay African-American man in Corpus Christi, Texas, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.
Both men pleaded guilty in September 2015, to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes and one count of a hate crime violation of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act for causing bodily injury because of the victim’s sexual orientation. The sentences were imposed today by Senior U.S. District Judge Hayden Head of the Southern District of Texas. In handing down the sentence, Judge Head commented that the defendants had abandoned their humanity to the viciousness of animals, and also added that not only must the defendants be punished for their behavior, but that it must send a message that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated in a civilized society. Both men were also ordered to pay $10,800 in restitution, serve three years of supervised release and register as sex offenders.
During their respective plea hearings, both men admitted they conspired to assault a gay African-American man because of his race and sexual orientation. During the assault, the defendants punched and kicked the man and assaulted him with various weapons, including a frying pan, a mug, a sock filled with batteries, a broom and a belt. The defendants also poured bleach onto the victim’s face and into his eyes, and Garza struck the victim in the head with a handgun.
Serrata and Garza further admitted that when the victim began to bleed during the assault, they forced him to remove all of his clothing and clean up the blood throughout the apartment. After the victim was naked, Garza pointed a gun at him while Serrata sodomized the victim with a broom handle. Serrata and Garza admitted that, throughout the assault, they called the victim “gay” and other racial and homophobic slurs. The defendants also admitted that they repeatedly whipped the victim with a belt while calling him a “slave” and making other references to slavery.
Both men acknowledged that throughout the assault, they also prevented the man from leaving the apartment by physical force and threats of force. The victim eventually escaped the apartment by jumping out of a window and running away until he was discovered by the police.
“Today’s sentencing makes clear that assaults based on bias and hate will not be tolerated in this nation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “These crimes violate both our civil rights laws and most basic national values. The Department of Justice will aggressively seek justice for any and all victims of such heinous violence.”
“The protection of all individuals from acts of violence based on their rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States will always be a priority in this judicial district,” said U.S. Attorney Magidson. “This case represents that commitment.”
Serrata and Garza will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. A third defendant, Carlos Garcia Jr., pleaded guilty on Jan. 5, 2016, to one count of making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22, 2016, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Corpus Christi, Texas, Resident Agency with assistance from the Corpus Christi Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jared Fishman and Nicholas Durham of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben Perez of the Southern District of Texas.