An ex-prison guard is set to stand trial for strangling, burning and calling a lesbian woman homophobic slurs in the US state of Wisconsin.
Shane Nolan was charged with felony battery and misdemeanour disorderly conduct, with hate crime penalties, after attacking Dessiray Koss. He is currently free on bond.
On Tuesday (5 July), Brown County Circuit Court judge Kendall Kelley rejected a plea bargain submitted by Nolan’s representative that would have meant no prison time and set a trial date for February 2023.
The story began on 3 July 2021, when Koss and Nolan were hanging with friends at Koss’ sisters house after a night out. The group were drinking and having fun around a fire pit.
Things took a turn when Nolan and Koss were left alone. Koss offered him a beer which he accepted. Suddenly, the former prison guard began to call Koss anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, grabbed her torso and pushed her into the fire, according to LGBTQ Nation.
Dessiray Koss fought Nolan off and attempted to crawl away from him, which eventually caught the attention of the others. Koss’ sister took notice and knocked Nolan over and started to punch him. However, Nolan lunged for Koss and began choking her.
A neighbour broke the fight up and Koss went to the hospital were she was treated for first, second and third-degree burns.
Koss identified Shane Nolan in a photo line-up. The next day, Nolan turned himself in and was subsequently fired from Green Bay Correctional Institute, where he was a prison guard.
Diverse & Resiliant, an LGBT+ advocacy group who is representing Koss, state that Nolan attacked Koss because he thought Koss was a man – and when he found out she wasn’t, it angered him.
Following the brutal attack, Brown County district attorney David Lasee hoped to get a plea deal for Nolan that would have led to Nolan serving no jail time, but these hopes were dashed.
Koss’s representative’s said that a plea bargain would have been “nothing more than a slap on the wrist” as per LGBTQ Nation.
Judge Kelley said: “A trial poses a significant risk that the matter will not turn out as hoped for or as expected by the victim… but I am going to decline to accept the amended information today.”
Shane Nolan’s representative David Lasee told the court: “The notion of a hate crime is not merely that the victim is a member of one of the protected classes, and I don’t think there is any doubt that she is a member of the protected class, it’s whether or not we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by that fact.”
Kathy Flores, the director of the Diverse & Resilient anti-violence program, countered this, explaining: “If you look at the hate crime law itself, all of the elements were there.
“we’ve taken a small step forward in honouring what the victim wants, but so far it’s just been a travesty of justice.”