ST. GEORGE – A couple involved in an alleged hate crime involving the beating of a gay man had charges against them dropped this month due to the death of the victim.
Mohamed Fathi Oanaw, 24, and Mayra Dinora Casas, 39, were originally arrested on felony and misdemeanor counts of robbery and assault connected to the beating of a gay man in St. George on Dec. 12, 2015, according to court records. The two were reported as married but living separately at the time of the incident.
Police officers responding to the incident that triggered their arrest described it as a “hate crime” because, they said, both Oanaw and Casas used slurs against gays and the alleged victim was gay.
“Mohamed kept stating he hated ‘gay boys’ and that he was Muslim,” a St. George Police officer wrote in a probable cause statement.
The man was supposedly attacked by Oanaw and Casas because he had beaten up Oanaw the night before while he was drunk and the man had allegedly made homosexual advances towards Oanaw, attorney Edward Flint, who represented Casas, said in an email to St. George News.
Though court proceedings got underway in 2016, Oanaw did not appear for a hearing and subsequently disappeared. Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense said he returned to his country of origin in the Middle East.
Casas’ own case moved forward all the same, with Flint arguing there was no “hate crime” under Utah law.
“Bottom line, regardless of what my client may have actually done, this was no hate crime because Utah does not have a hate crime protection for sexual orientation,” Flint said in his email.
Regardless, court proceedings then halted when it was learned the alleged victim had died due to circumstances unrelated to the case, the prosecution confirmed earlier this week.
Flint said the cause of death appears to have been a car crash.
Washington County Attorney’s Office dropped the state’s charges against Casas on April 10 and dropped charges against Oanaw Tuesday. The court entered dismissals without prejudice, meaning the state could refile charges against the defendants at some future date; however, that’s unlikely.
“You can’t present evidence when the main witness is gone,” Deputy Washington County Attorney James Weeks said.
Oanaw and Casas were both facing charges of second-degree felony robbery and class A misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief; Oanaw with misdemeanor lewdness; and Casas with third-degree felony unlawful acquisition of a finance card and misdemeanor charges of assault, theft and possession of another person’s identifying documents and damaging a communication device.
The confrontations stemmed from an altercation Dec. 11, 2015, between Oanaw and the man who was described as “openly homosexual.” Police had responded to that incident but the alleged victim did not wish to press charges, according to a probable cause statement, and everyone went their separate ways.
Casas had been working when the Dec. 11 altercation between her husband and the man occurred and didn’t return home until 7:30 a.m., Flint said in his email.
“(She) found her husband had been beaten by (the man) during the night, and he was sobering up and hurt,” Flint wrote. “Then (the man) shows up to retrieve something and Mohamed starts beating him up in retaliation for being beaten, himself, when he was too drunk to fight back.”
Casas sent the man a text the next day, Dec. 12, telling him to come back to the residence to pick up someone’s belongings from the night before and to talk about what had happened, police records state. She allegedly told the man that her husband was not at the residence. However, when the man came and was allowed inside, Oanaw was there and began to attack him while also spouting off slurs against gays.
Casas was also reportedly yelling slurs at the man and told Oanaw to “get the fag,” according to a probable cause statement.
“Mayra assisted with the beating of (the man) because she had been told that he made gay advances for sex to her husband AND beat him up,” Flint wrote in his email.
Any “gay slurs” made during the fight were due to Casas’ anger over alleged elements of what may have previously occurred, Flint wrote.
“Hatred of gays had nothing to do with it,” Flint wrote. “Passions were high.”
At some point during the fight, Oanaw partially exposed himself to the man while repeatedly yelling at him to perform a sexual act, according to police records. This was where the misdemeanor lewdness charge originated.
During the fight the alleged victim’s smartphone was taken from his pocket and broken by Oanaw and Casas, according to police records. A wallet was also reportedly taken during the fight. These instances led to the criminal mischief and robbery charges.
“There also was no ‘robbery’ because the wallet and cell phone got tossed out the door; there was no attempt to steal them,” Flint said in his email. “This case against Mayra Casas should have been, at most, a misdemeanor assault, and that’s it.”
The fight didn’t end until a woman who also lived at the residence called police.
When the officer arrived at the scene, he said in a written statement, “Mayra stated repeatedly that (the man) was mad about ‘gay sh—’ and that he was a ‘faggot’ who wanted to ‘(have sex with) my husband.’ Mohamed kept stating he hated ‘gay boys’ and that he was Muslim.”
According to the statement of probable cause, Oanaw was Mirandized by police and admitted to yelling slurs against gays, starting the fight, exposing himself and breaking the man’s phone.
While being question by officers after being told her rights, Casas admitted to nothing and answered “no” to each question, police said in their written statement.
St. George News reporter Kimberly Scott contributed to this article.
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