Luke in Creative Loafing

Luke O’Donovan receives 10-year sentence – and ‘banishment’ – for NYE altercation

The following article was posted to Creative Loafing on August 15, 2014.

Supporters of a man who says he was defending himself during an alleged homophobic attack at a New Year’s Eve party are asking a judge to revisit the terms of a 10-year prison sentence he agreed to as part of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors on Tuesday.

According to an Atlanta Police report, sometime after revelers rang in 2013, Luke O’Donovan was involved in an altercation at a Reynoldstown party with five to 12 people over “sexuality.” Supporters say the Georgia Gwinnett College student defended himself with a pocketknife after he was called homophobic slurs and attacked. According to the APD report, witnesses claimed that people who were later cut or stabbed by O’Donovan tried to “stop” him. O’Donovan then left the party to receive medical treatment at Atlanta Medical Center for stab wounds sustained during the attack, his supporters say. He was charged several hours later with five counts of felony aggravated assault and later charged with attempted murder.

The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee, which claims it includes O’Donovan’s friends, family, roommates, and others, is categorizing what happened to the 21 year old as a hate crime.

“Witnesses report seeing between five and 12 men attacking O’Donovan, stomping on his head and body, and stabbing him in the back while calling him a ‘faggot,'” the committee said in a statement today.

“The facts of this case were clearly biased due to the group nature of the attack and the complicity of some onlookers,” the statement says. “The demonization of O’Donovan’s actions is apart [sic] of a growing trend: criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.”

The committee says Judge Todd Markle, who oversaw the case, and the court are homophobic for allowing the prosecution to use “bigoted language” in open court, “asking every witness if the term “faggot” was offensive or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “pussies,” “bitches,” or “nigger.” (Markle was not immediately available for comment on Friday. We’ll update if we hear back.)

A statement issued by O’Donovan after his sentencing, was posted on the group’s website:

My name is Luke O’Donovan. In the early morning of January 1st, 2013, I was attacked by a group of men at a party because of my sexuality. In an attempt to defend myself from the attack I thought could end my life I stabbed 5 of them, while also being stabbed 3 times myself. It is regrettable that anyone had to come to harm, but given the choice of whether to lose my life to a hateful attack or fight for the chance to live, I will always choose the ferocious refusal to go quietly into the night. This refusal was not fueled by hate for my attackers, but by my love for life. It is this passion for life that came in conflict with my attackers, and this same passion that was arrested by the cops and is being punished by the courts. It is this passion that they are trying to chain, to cage, to rehabilitate me away from, but it is this passion that will pull my gaze — always forward — through the dark. I can already glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be home soon.

According to reports, O’Donovan will serve two years in prison and eight years on probation. Just before reading O’Donovan’s sentence, the support committee says, Markle added a punishment: banishment from all of Georgia except for Screven County while he serves on probation. The archaic practice basically exiles a person from a certain place. Georgia is one of more than 10 states where the punishment is allowed in some form.

The committee wants the judge to toss out the criminal banishment while O’Donovan is on probation.