Civil Rights Group Files Suit Against Billy Ray Johnson's
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 27, 2005
LINDEN, TEXAS--Two years after a black man with intellectual disabilities was beaten and left for dead on a mound of stinging fire ants, a civil rights group is suing the four white men and a white woman for their part in the attack which occurred during a drinking party.
Attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center last Monday filed the lawsuit alleging that the four men are liable for assault and negligence in the 2003 beating of Billy Ray Johnson. Lacy Dorgan, the girlfriend of one of the men who was present during the assault, was also named in the suit. While the suit seeks unspecified damages, attorneys said they hope the award will be enough to move Johnson out of the nursing home where he continues to recover from his injuries.
On September 27 of that year, one of the men brought Johnson, who was described in news reports as functioning "at the level of a 12-year-old", to a pasture where several white youths were drinking. According to court records, the men teased Johnson, got him drunk, made him dance for them, called him racial slurs, and made him pull burning logs from a fire.
At one point Johnson was struck in the face and knocked unconscious. The men then loaded him into the back of a pickup truck and dumped his body alongside a dirt road -- on top of a mound of stinging fire ants.
Johnson sustained a brain hemorrhage and was in a coma for a week. His body was covered with hundreds of ant bites. The attack also permanently affected his speech and mobility.
On May 13 of this year, an all-white jury gave two of the men suspended sentences. The judge added a 30-day sentence for one of them and a 60-day sentence for the other. The other two men plea-bargained for sentences of just 30 days. All four were ordered to pay fines of up to $4,000.
Morris Dees, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Chicago Tribune the justice system and the town of Linden, Texas failed Mr. Johnson.
"The jurors faced a man who got permanent brain damage from a brutal beating and was thrown on the side of the road like a dog," Dees said. "But they decided, 'These good ole white boys, we don't want to mess them up.'"
"Lawsuit to be filed against white assailants who beat black man" (Chicago Tribune via Monterey Herald)
"Montgomery group files civil suit in beating of black man in Texas" (Associated Press via Decatur Daily)