Looking at the only felony hate crime prosecuted in Travis County


AUSTIN (KXAN) — It was a Wednesday night in 2012 on 6th Street. Scott Chatagnier approached Dirty Dog bar and started to make his way inside, but he was stopped by security. The bouncer believed the 42-year-old was too drunk and said he was not allowed to go inside.

Chatagnier became irate and started cursing and yelling a racial slur at the black bouncer who stopped him.

“F— you n—–!” said Chatagnier. “I f—— hate all n——!”

The bouncer told him to go away and leave the front of the bar. During his enraged rant, Chatagnier made the sign of the swastika with his hands and said, “All f—— n—— must f—— burn!”

CULTURE CHANGE: Legal experts, lawmakers and activists agree culture change needed to combat hate in Texas

Then, Chatagnier pulled out a black folding pocket knife and started walking toward the bouncer. Another bouncer from the club next door heard the commotion and stepped in to help.

The two of them were able to tackle Chatagnier to the ground until police arrived.

A Travis County grand jury decided a hate crime enhancement should be added to his felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge.

It is the one and only felony case the Travis County District Attorney’s office can point to that resulted in a successful hate crime prosecution in the last ten years. 

Chatagnier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison, but only ended up serving about four years behind bars. He was released on parole in Sept. 2016.

While the Austin Police Department investigated 19 cases in 2018 as hate crimes, none of them were proven to be hate crimes in the courtroom.

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Beth Payan says prosecuting cases with the added hate crime enhancement is a big challenge 

“We have to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual selected a victim or their property specifically because of a bias or prejudice against them.”

Andrea Austin, another prosecutor in Travis County said the county attorney’s office has successfully convicted defendants with the hate crime enhancement in misdemeanor cases.

It will be up to a grand jury to decide if prosecutors should go that route with the four suspects accused of attacking a gay couple leaving a bar in downtown Austin.

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