Originally created 03/08/06

Soldiers charged in man's beating



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Police say five Fort Stewart soldiers severely beat a man outside a Savannah gay bar early Sunday.

Officers responded at about 3:15 a.m. Sunday outside Blaine's Back Door Bar.

Lying barely conscious outside the front door was David Bennett, 37.

An initial Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police report indicates he was "bleeding profusely" from cuts near the eye and along his right side.

Mr. Bennett was taken to the hospital, where he was discharged Monday.

Witnesses told police the soldiers, including one wearing a cowboy hat, attacked Mr. Bennett at the corner of Perry Lane and Drayton Street just after he'd left the bar.

Mr. Bennett attempted to run back to Blaine's, but the men caught him at the front door, police said. There, three witnesses said, the men beat Mr. Bennett with their fists and kicked and stomped him once he fell to the ground. The men then fled to the DeSoto Hilton, the witnesses said.

Police soon found the suspects, who range in age from 20 to 26 and are all members of the 3rd Infantry Division, and returned them to the scene to be identified.

All were charged with aggravated battery.

According to the incident report, one of the men, Sidney Swift, boasted to police that he assaulted the man.

The other soldiers, according to police, told Mr. Swift to be quiet because they were "one team, and it was one fight."

The other soldiers that were charged are: Darrick Fritz, 21; Clinton Little, 22; Rocco Sorma, 25; and Adam Pittman, 26.

HATE CRIMES BILL



ATLANTA - A revived version of Georgia's hate crime law is making its way through the Legislature, two years after the state's Supreme Court tossed out the 2000 statute for being too vague.The law had called for stiffer criminal penalties for crimes where a victim is chosen because of "bias or prejudice."The new bill, approved on an 8-3 vote by the Senate's judiciary committee Tuesday, instead singles out people who commit a crime because of "the victim's race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation."

To stay alive, the bill must now be placed on the Senate's calendar and passed by Monday.

- Associated Press