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Austin Head's Attacker Gets Two Years in Jail Thanks to Ariz. Hate-Crimes Law

By Neal Broverman

A man will serve over two years in prison for an attack on a gay man in Phoenix, a sentence increased thanks to Arizona's bias-crime statute.

A judge threw the book at 24-year-old Ernie Barnes Jr. for attacking Austin Head, a gay performer and candidate for Phoenix City Council, in November. Head, unconscious when paramedics arrived at the scene, was called an antigay epithet by Barnes and his brother prior to the attack.

Barnes has the two-year prison sentence, and his brother, Jermon, will serve six months of intensive probation. Prosecutors are happy with the sentences, which would have been much less severe without an Arizona law that prosecutes hate crimes against gay people and gives longer sentences for bias-motivated crimes.

"It says that Phoenix doesn’t tolerate this type of hate," Head told local media. "The city took it very seriously."

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