CAPE GIRARDEAU — Two southeast Missouri men were charged Thursday with third-degree assault-hate crime and are accused of attacking a man because of his sexual orientation in August.
Both suspects, 30-year-old Shaun Cole and 22-year-old Eric Frymire, are from Cape Girardeau.
A probable cause statement says Frymire and Cole witnessed seven people at a parking lot and followed the group to an apartment, threatened them and made derogatory sexual remarks. The group went inside and shut the door to avoid any further altercation.
The statement says that when one man stepped out of the apartment, Cole called him a name and hit him in the head with his fist. Frymire then allegedly jumped in. The men are accused of then pinning the man to a bed and repeatedly hitting him until police were called.
Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle said witnesses described hearing Frymire and Cole use derogatory language directed at the victim and his friends.
Frymire's attorney, Gordon Glaus, said, "I believe my client's innocent, and it will be proven in court." There was no attorney listed for Cole. Neither man had a listed phone number.
Third-degree assault is normally a misdemeanor, but the hate crime charge elevates it to a Class D felony that carries a potential penalty of up to four years in prison.
State statutes define a hate crime as any crime motivated by the race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or disability of the victim. Swingle said his office sees about one hate crime a year. A spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon said that office does not track the number of hate crimes in Missouri.