Two teens accused of beating man in wheelchair could face hate crime penalties

Two teens accused of beating man in wheelchair could face hate crime penalties

By WTMJ News Team. CREATED Oct 16, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct 16, 2012

RACINE- Two men accused of beating and robbing a man in a wheelchair could face hate crime penalties.

Justin Lyons and Alexander Pietsch have already been charged with ripping a man out of his wheelchair for his cell phone.

Bound to his wheelchair, David Scholzen endured a beating he feared would kill him.

"I don't understand why they did it in the first place," says Scholzen.  "They didn't ask me for money."

But family members want to know why this isn't considered a hate crime.

"It's almost like a hate crime," says David's mom Debbie Christensen.  "I mean, why would you see someone in a wheelchair and even think to do that?"

TODAY'S TMJ4's Keller Russell:
"Do you feel like you were targeted because you were in a wheelchair?"
David Scholzen: "Yes."
TODAY'S TMJ4's Keller Russell:  "Does that upset you?"
David Scholzen: "Yes, very much."

Under state law, a hate crime is when someone intentionally targets their victim at least partially based on race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

So, TODAY'S TMJ4 wanted to know why the district attorney isn't using the hate crime enhancer in Scholzen's case.

He wouldn't talk on camera but says they are still investigating that possibility.

Attorney Jonathan Safran isn't involved in the case, but helped explain how the process works.

"Well there has to be some evidence of it," says Safran.  "It can't be just because someone is of a certain whatever..."

And, Safran says that can be a hard case to build.

"It's not used very often, certainly in the state of Wisconsin and in many other states."