As Travis Hawkins Jr. is currently being charged with second-degree assault for the beating of 23-year-old Mallory Owens on Thanksgiving Day, members of the victim’s family are pulling for a tougher indictment based on the suspicion that the alleged attack was a “hate crime.”
Owens’ mother said that given the severe nature of her daughter’s injuries, Hawkins should face a tougher charge. Owens' family said that Hawkins attacked her because of her sexual orientation.
"Oh, yes, I know they don't approve of it. This isn't the first time he has attacked Mallory. This is the second time. The first time, he attacked her with a pipe and hit her in the back of the head and on the back a few times. People stepped in to help then," Kristi Taylor, Owens' mother, told reporters.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told Fox10 in Pensaola, FL., that Hawkins is being charged with second-degree assault because a deadly weapon was not used in the beating.
“Courts have said a fist is not considered a deadly weapon. So, therefore, it has to be assault second-degree charges,” Rich told the local news outlet.
While it is still considered to be early in the investigation, charges could be upgraded depending on the evidence, according to Rich, who said her office is still trying to determine a motive.
"Some people say the motive has been a hate crime. We have not been able to confirm that at this point. But that is part of the ongoing investigation,” Rich said.
Should Owens’ beating be considered a hate crime, Hawkins could face federal charges.
"A hate crime as defined by law in the State of Alabama does not cover gay and lesbian rights. So that would be a federal charge that would need to be brought against the defendant, and that would be the U.S attorney's office,” Rich told Fox10.
According to the Fox affiliate, Hawkins has hired criminal defense lawyer James Byrd.
"There is a lot more to the story than meets the eye,” Byrd said.
"I find it interesting that the side who doesn't have the strength of the facts goes public and tries to get public sentiment and public sway behind them by telling outrageous and outlandish stories,” he said.
"With all of the social media out there now, I hear it’s on Facebook and everything else, I know that the Hawkins address has been put out and they're receiving death threats.”
Byrd told Fox10 that statements given under oath and in a courtroom will reveal more about what happened in the Hawkins home on Thanksgiving night.