MANCELONA — A suspected hate crime against a transgender woman triggered an Antrim County Sheriff’s investigation and pushed prosecutors to levy a felony charge of ethnic intimidation.
It’s a felony Sheriff Dan Bean hasn’t seen charged locally in at least the past decade.
“It might happen more frequently downstate but it’s not something I’ve dealt with,” he said.
Thomas Francis Knowles, 47, of Mancelona, this week was released from the county’s jail on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond after he was charged as a habitual offender with the gender-related hate crime — a two-year felony — and a misdemeanor count of aggravated assault.
Court records state Knowles earlier this year physically and verbally harassed a woman specifically because of her transgender identity. Deputies contended he in June struck the woman in the groin somewhere in Mancelona Township. Knowles declined to comment on the accusations. His attorney, Matthew Connolly, didn’t return a call.
Ethnic intimidation statutes — passed into law in 1989 — are designed to prosecute assaults or threats against a person because of their race, skin color, religion, gender or national origin. Victims, regardless of the outcome of criminal prosecution, also can pursue a civil case against a suspect.
State law allows for paid damages in the amount of three times the actual damage or up to $2,000. Prosecutor Jim Rossiter was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon. The woman who claimed she was attacked couldn’t be reached for comment.
Knowles is also charged as a fourth-time habitual offender stemming from three prior convictions of felonious assault, marijuana dealing and possession of a controlled substance. The enhanced charge, if convicted, could send him to prison for the next 15 years.
Visit Record-Eagle.com as the criminal case proceeds early next month in 86th District Court.