UPDATE: Hate-crime charges dropped for friend of juvenile accused of punching gay teen
UPDATE: New court documents show the charges against Hayden Stowell were dropped on Monday.
The motion to dismiss order was filed by the State attorney, who requested the charges of retaliation against a witness and criminal mischief to be dismissed “without prejudice… because of evidentiary issues.”
The judge granted the motion, and the Salt Lake County Jail was ordered to release Stowell from custody.
SANDY, Utah — A 19-year-old connected with the juvenile suspect accused of punching a teenager who is gay is also facing hate crime charges and retaliation against the victim’s family.
Hayden Stowell, 19, of Sandy, was caught on the victim’s family home surveillance cameras vandalizing their pride flags on Aug. 13 at 5 a.m, according to court documents.
The documents state that the family’s mother received a phone notification that a surveillance camera picked up an unknown face in the front yard.
“She later looked out the window and observed all her pride flags strewn about her front yard and the street in front of her home,” according to court documents. At least one of the flags was broken.
The woman watched the surveillance video of that night and saw Stowell damaging the pride flags, the court documents state. She recognized him as someone with the juvenile suspect on the night of the assault against her son.
On July 30, Stowell was in a silver Infiniti Q50 with the juvenile suspect and three other passengers when they yelled slurs at the 17-year-old teen outside his Sandy home while hugging his boyfriend, according to court documents.
The silver car returned to the home and its occupants made more homophobic comments and slurs towards the same-sex couple, “the occupants of the vehicle used the term (gay slur)” court documents state.
The occupants of the car got out, and the juvenile suspect punched the 17-year-old teen in the face with a closed fist, documents state. All of the occupants got back into the car and drove away.
Court documents state that the victim’s sister found a video of the assault on social media, learned who the juvenile suspect was, and found his address. The sister went to the juvenile suspect’s home and demanded him to “return to her address and apologize to her brother,” according to court documents.
Meanwhile, Sandy police officers were waiting for the juvenile and his mother at the victim’s home and intercepted them as they arrived.
In a post-Miranda interview with the juvenile suspect, he admitted to calling the same-sex couple “(gay slur)” according to court documents. “[He] also admitted to getting out of his vehicle and approaching [the couple.] while continuing to taunt them with homophobic slurs and insults.”
Court documents state when the victim yelled back at him, he punched him and left in the car with the rest of the silver Infiniti Q50’s occupants.
The mother of the victim had surveillance video of the assault. She recognized the juvenile suspect along with the three other passengers and Stowell as they were involved in a group called “The Order,” according to court documents. The mother was previously involved with the group and referred to them as the “(Family name) polygamist family.”
On Aug. 12, the juvenile suspect was booked into juvenile detention, with his first detention hearing set for Aug. 15, according to court documents.
Charging documents state that “Stowell ripped down the down the [family’s] pride flags just twelve hours after [the juvenile] was booked into detention.”
Because of the previous relationship between Stowell and the juvenile with their connection to the alleged assault and the two suspects had no prior interaction with the 17-year-old victim, police believe that Stowell “returned to the scene of the original assault with the only clear purpose to further intimidate and harass [the victim] after [the juvenile] was booked,” according to court documents.
Police booked Stowell into the Salt Lake County Jail. On Monday, Stowell was charged with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor with hate crime penalty enhancements if convicted.
Prosecutors requested that he be held in jail without bail pending trial.
The 17-year-old victim suffered a brain injury from the punch, according to his family, and is still recovering.
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