Plea Deal Nixed for Man Who Allegedly Threw a Queer Woman Into a Fire
Author: Trudy Ring
Above: The accused attacker, Shane Nolan (in light blue), in court
A Wisconsin man accused of a brutal anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime will stand trial in February after a judge rejected a plea bargain the man had reached with prosecutors.
Shane Nolan is accused of throwing a queer woman, Dessiray Koss, into a live fire and attempting to strangle her, while using an anti-LGBTQ+ slur, in July 2021. He was charged with felony substantial battery and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and hate-crime penalties were added to both. He was working as a prison guard at the time, but his employment ended in November.
Nolan, now 31, and his legal team had negotiated a plea deal with Brown County District Attorney David Lasee in which he was charged with three misdemeanors and there were no hate-crime enhancements. But Judge Kendall Kelley dismissed the plea agreement Tuesday, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports.
“A trial poses a significant risk that the matter will not turn out as hoped for or as expected by the victim … but I am going to decline to accept the amended information today,” Kelley said, according to the paper.
The attack took place in the early morning hours of July 3, 2021. Koss, her sister, her sister’s friend, Nolan, and Nolan’s male friend were sharing drinks by an outdoor fire pit. When Nolan and Koss were briefly left alone, police and witnesses said, Nolan without provocation uttered an antigay slur at Koss, lifted her from a chair, and threw her into the burning fire. After Koss crawled from the fire and attempted to fight back, Nolan strangled her while others tried to restrain him before he fled the scene, according to the police and witness accounts. Koss suffered first-, second-, and third-degree burns, which required plastic surgery and painful therapy to repair.
A representative of a local activist group, Diverse and Resilient, spoke in court on Koss’s behalf before the judge announced his decision. Nick Ross said Koss didn’t consent to the plea bargain and that a trial on the hate-crime charges would make an important statement.
“We definitely believe this would go against the great public interest because this extreme form of violence would present safety concerns to the public, especially the LGBTQ community,” Ross said. “We feel that accepting the plea agreement deteriorates the seriousness of the offense, and also promotes disrespect for the law — specifically hate-crime laws.”
Lasee told the judge he had “no reason to doubt” Koss’s account, but added, “I don’t know that we’d be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by her sexual orientation, as opposed to motivated by drunken, stupid, inappropriate behavior on the part of the defendant.”
Nolan’s attorney, Clarence Dulac, contended that some facts of the case were in dispute but said Nolan took responsibility and that the plea deal would allow both him and Koss to get on with their lives.
But in the end, the judge rejected it. He said the February trial will likely take two or three days, and he encouraged any witnesses to come forward as soon as possible. “Don’t wait until the last minute to be engaged in the process,” Kelley said, according to the Press Gazette. “Witnesses need to be here so we can complete this matter and bring it to a conclusion for everyone.”
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring