Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (Orlando-D), who is gay, opened up on Twitter this week about his own experience surviving a hate crime in 2003.
“I survived senseless hate violence while I was a @UCF student in 2003. Hatred + homophobia are real,” the Florida House Rep. wrote. “In some ways, I’m embarrassed to tell it. To be attacked for existing often shames the victim. The wounds fade but the scars run deep + still hurt. Victim-blaming and disbelief are too common. I got justice, too many do not. These truths cannot be ignored. #HateCrimeSurvivor”
The allegations that Jussie Smollett, a star of the television series “Empire,” orchestrated a fake racist and anti-gay hate crime in Chicago prompted Smith to share his own story.
“False reporting of hate crimes is rare. Underreporting is common. I understand why and that is the reason today I’m telling my story,” he wrote. “The surge of hate violence against vulnerable communities is real. Attacks on trans women of color, anti-Semitism, Muslims, violence against women and the disabled are escalating. That is the story worth telling right now.”
Smollett is accused of filing a fake police report and has been charged with disorderly conduct, a felony. If convicted he faces up to three years in prison.
Smith gave more details to the News Service of Florida on Thursday.
“I didn’t know what was going on. But I got banged up pretty bad. When the dust settled, everyone was telling me about how the guy was making all these homophobic slurs about our group, because hey listen, we travel in cliques. We queer people, we stick together,” Smith said. “I don’t remember if the guy was drunk or what his deal was but he started lashing out at. It was like a full-fledged gay-bashing.”
According to the News Service of Florida Smith’s attacker was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of “battery, evidencing prejudice.” Prosecutors later dropped the disorderly conduct charge and the hate-crimes enhancer after he agreed to plead no contest to the battery charges. He was sentenced to 312 days in the Orange County Jail followed by a year of probation.
The sentence also required sensitivity training, an anger management course, and a letter of apology to Smith, the News Service of Florida reported.