The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brad Luna | Phone: 202/216.1514,Trevor Thomas | Phone: 202/216.1547

Man Convicted in Anti-Gay Killing Released from Prison One Year After Sentencing; Victims Mother Notified by Automated Message

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted case while testifying in support of hate crimes legislation last week

Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today condemned the early
release of Stephen Andrew Moller, who was convicted in June of 2008 in
the death of 20-year-old Sean Kennedy. Sean's mother, Elke Kennedy,
was informed of the release by automated message last night. Witnesses
testified at trial that Kennedy's attacker shouted anti-gay slurs while
punching Kennedy outside a Greenville, SC bar in May of 2007.
"This adds insult to injury. To
release a man just one-year after his sentencing in this heinous crime
and to inform the victim's mother through an automated recording is
despicable," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Sean
Kennedy was violently attacked for no other reason than his sexual
orientation. This is a text book case of why we need to pass federal
legislation that would bring stiffer penalties and provide local
authorities with the full resources of the U.S. Justice Department to
address vicious hate crimes."
"They say one thing and do something
else," said Elke Kennedy, Sean's mother. "He should have served every
single day of the already short sentence, instead he was released from
prison one week early. Where is the justice?"
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder
Jr. highlighted Sean Kennedy's case last week while testifying before
the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of federal hate crimes
legislation. Holder, the first time an Attorney General has testified
in favor of this legislation, said Sean's death was an example of an
"appalling crime" where "state prosecutions may not always fully
vindicate Federal interests."
Both Elke Kennedy and Joe Solmonese
submitted written testimony at the hearing in support of the Matthew
Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909). To read the testimony,
The legislation, which was passed in the U.S. House by a vote of
249-175 in April, would provide local police and sheriff's departments
with federal resources to combat hate violence. The legislation is
currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate.
"Sean is among many American's who
are targeted just because of who they are. These crimes not only harm
individuals, they terrorize entire communities," said Solmonese. "After
more than a decade and nine successful votes in Congress, there is no
good reason for any delay on bringing hate crimes legislation to the
President's desk. We must finally pass this bill and start the
important steps to erasing hate in our country."
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), the
Kennedy family's senator, recently wrote a shocking letter to local
priests and pastors advocating against hate crime legislation. DeMint,
who has regularly spoken out against the LGBT community, wrote the
following in reference to hate crimes legislation: "Many pastors
hesitate to explain that government policies have helped cause the
decline of America's culture, morality and spirituality. ... I am
writing you today to remind you that religious principals and biblical
teachings produced the values and polices that made America
exceptional, prosperous, and good."
The Matthew Shepard Act gives the
Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias
motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim
because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion,
national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or
disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid
state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where
local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in
investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or
serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes
grants available to state and local communities to combat violent
crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to
assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias
motivated crimes.
To learn more about Sean Kennedy's story and HRC's working coalition to pass hate crimes legislation, visit

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.