A jury has convicted an Atlanta truck driver accused of pouring boiling water over two gay men as the couple slept in February.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes Wednesday before finding Martin Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault, according to the Associated Press.
Blackwell was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The 48-year-old wasn’t charged with a hate crime because Georgia is one of five states that do not have hate crime statutes. An FBI spokesman told Reuters that federal investigators are considering whether to charge Blackwell with a federal hate crime.
Anthony Gooden had told his family he was gay shortly before the attack, which happened as Gooden slept on a mattress in his mother’s living room next to Marquez Tolbert, according to the AP. The men had been dating for about six weeks.
Blackwell, a long-haul trucker who stayed at the house when he was in town, came in and saw the two unconscious men lying next to each other.
He went to the kitchen, pulled out a pot, filled it with water and set it to boil. Moments later, he poured the scalding water over the men, The Washington Post reported.
“I woke up to the most unimaginable pain in my entire life,” Tolbert said, sobbing frequently during his testimony, according to the AP. “I’m wondering why I’m in so much pain. I’m wondering why I’m wet. I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Then Blackwell allegedly yanked him off the mattress and yelled, “Get out of my house with all that gay,” Tolbert recalled to WSBTV.
“They were stuck together like two hot dogs … so I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out,” he said to police, according to the incident report. “… They’ll be alright. It was just a little hot water.”
Blackwell claimed the two men were having sex when he poured water on them. Vickie Gray, a friend of Tolbert’s, told the news station that’s not true; they were asleep after a long day of work — not that the alleged attack would have been justified in any case, she noted.
Tolbert must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years, Gray wrote in an email to The Post, and is attending weekly counseling and physical therapy sessions to deal with his emotional and physical scars. It’s difficult for him to go outside because sunlight exacerbates the pain of his burns.
Gooden, who was burned even more severely, was in a medically induced coma for several weeks, Gray said. According to his GoFundMe page, more than 60 percent of his body was burned, and he had to undergo skin graft surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest and head.