NAACP, Survivor’s Mother Want Ogden Attack to Be Tried as Hate Crime
Wil Phillips said he is doing alright after being attacked while visiting his friend’s apartment on June 2.
“I have a scar on my arm from where he kicked me and broke my skin, and finally the last bruise is about gone,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy, because if I hadn’t had my arms up, he would’ve kicked me smack in the face.”
Phillips, 24, was one of two gay young people attacked at Ogden’s Mirador apartment complex early last month. The other, Whitney Goich, 20, underwent surgery on June 3 to repair a broken nose and a sunken tear duct she sustained during the attack. Both individuals claim their attacker was Christopher Vonnegut Allen, whom police arrested later that night. The two did not know each other before the attacks.
At the time Allen was charged with two class B misdemeanor counts of assault and one count of criminal trespassing. Since then, the charges against him have been raised to one count of second-degree felony burglary, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
However, a Western chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has urged the Weber County Attorney’s Office to raise the charges even further. On June 21, Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, told the Ogden Standard-Examiner that the organization wants to see Allen charged with two counts of burglary, “one for each person [attacked].”
“[The assaults] didn’t happen at the same time. They were different aggravated assaults on both of them with different slurs pertaining to the young lady being a lesbian and the young man being gay,” she said.
Phillips said Allen attacked him in a friend’s apartment. The friend, who asked not to be identified, apparently knew Allen and let him in. When the friend left the room, Phillips said Allen slapped him and stomped on him while shouting “I’m not [expletive] gay” until the friend forced Allen to leave.
At roughly 2:30 a.m. Goich, who was entering the building to visit a friend, said Allen punched her in the face and slammed his knee into her nose.
“I just asked him, ‘Why are you hitting me? Why are you hitting me?’ and he just — just started using explicit words that he hated faggots, and that I was a bad person for being gay pretty much,” Goich later told ABC 4 News.
The NAACP looks into crimes in which victims appear to have been targeted because of a number of characteristics including race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Williams said that the local chapter wants prosecutors to call the attacks a hate crime, whether or not they seek to apply Utah’s hate crime enhancement to the case.
“A lot of times [hate crimes] go in as, maybe like this one, a second-degree felony burglary or assault or something like that, so it doesn’t get registered as a hate crime,” said Williams. “It makes it look like there’s no incidence of hate crimes here, which is not true.” If Allen is convicted, Williams said the attacks should be forwarded to the FBI for inclusion in its annual hate crimes report.
Allen failed to appear in court for a hearing on June 8, leading 2nd District Judge Mark DeCaria to issue a no-bail bench warrant for his arrest. He withdrew the warrant seven days later when Allen’s attorney brought him to court. Allen’s preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for July 13.
Lucinda Phillips, mother of Wil Phillips, said that she would attend the hearing, and that she would testify if called.
“I don’t necessarily want to see this kid [Allen] get tons and tons of time, but I do want to see him pay for what he did, and I want it to be brought into the public eye that people can’t just be doing this,” she said.
“None of them were doing anything wrong, and this poor girl, she could have died,” she continued. “My son was just there watching TV with his friends. He’s a good person. He’s an awesome kid.”
Phillips noted that the attack had rallied her family.
“His sister has twin 11-year-old girls,” she said. “And she’s decided to talk to her daughters about their uncle being gay and take them to Gay Lagoon Day.”
Her son also said that he refuses to let the attack limit him.
“I figure that either it’s going to bring me down or make me stronger, and I’d rather it be the second,” he said. “I’m not going to let someone’s bigotry from scare me and keep me from having a life.”