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Hate crime charges sought in Cracker Barrel case

By Mehgaan Jones

mjones@news-daily.com

A group of community activists is trying to get a federal hate crime prosecution, and an explanation of the plea-deal arrangement, in the case of a white man, who attacked a black woman, at a Morrow restaurant last year.

The highly publicized case ended with a plea bargain, in which Troy Dale West -- who was accused of attacking Tasha Hill at a Cracker Barrel restaurant -- entered a plea that will result in him serving less than six months in jail.

Last Wednesday, at the Richard B. Russell Federal Court Building, in Atlanta, Hill supporters asked U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates to look into the case, regarding their concerns.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, speaking for the group of 14, charged that the case was not handled properly, and that he, and others, are concerned with how West's plea deal was set.

"She [Yates] said that she would make a inquiry to determine how the plea deal was arranged," said Fort. "We are still waiting for a response."

Fort, and those he represented, asked Yates if it would be a viable option to prosecute the case as a hate crime, in federal court. Yates agreed to look into the option, according to Fort. He said Yates told to them to give her a week to respond to their requests.

"The justice office will neither confirm, nor deny the possibility of investigating the case," said U.S. Attorney's Office Public Affairs Officer Patrick Crosby.