Victim of Rock Hill mob attack charged

Esskew, who said he was beaten earlier this year because he is gay, is suspect in credit card fraud

jself@heraldonlineOctober 1, 2011 

— A man who said a mob attacked him earlier this year because he's gay has been accused of illegally using a Rock Hill minister's credit card at a Family Dollar store, according to Rock Hill Police reports.

Joshua Esskew, 20, has been charged with two counts of financial transaction card fraud.

In April, Esskew was beaten outside a York County convenience store in an attack captured on surveillance tape. The incident outraged gay rights advocates and prompted an FBI investigation into whether the attack was a hate crime.

Five men were charged in the attack, and their cases are pending.

On Sept. 21, an employee at First Presbyterian Church, located at 234 E. Main St. in Rock Hill, saw two men enter the minister's office.

The associate minister, Tai Magette, was in a meeting at the time, she said Friday.

After the meeting, she realized her purse was missing and noticed transactions of more than $200 on her debit card at Family Dollar and a convenience store, the report states.

Esskew later turned himself into authorities.

Magette, who has been at First Presbyterian for four years, said she only recalls a break-in a few years ago.

"It's a bad occurrence that happened and something that we're seeing more of in our society today," she said.

"The church is there to help people, but we also take a risk by keeping our doors open. I hate it that he chose this path to take."

Esskew is being held at the York County Detention Center on a $10,000 bond.

A victim of assault

Esskew was beaten on April 9 by several men outside the Spot Convenience Store at 990 S. Cherry Road in Rock Hill, according to York County Sheriff's Office reports.

Five York men were arrested in connection with the beating. Bobby Wilson, 30, of California Street; Cortezio Laquise Douglas, 21, of Barron Park; LaJames Mitchell, 22, of Southbrook Drive; and Darnenco Markie Wilmore, 21, of Spruce Street were arrested in late April. Lortarius Anthony Duncan, 22, of Ridgewood Lane turned himself in.

All five were charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, a felony that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison..

Wilson, the only defendant still held at the Moss Justice Center in York, has asked for a bond hearing on Thursday.

Esskew, 19 at the time, had stopped at the Spot Convenience Store for a drink when a man called him a gay slur. After Esskew confronted him and someone struck him on the back of the head with a bottle, according to police reports. When Esskew confronted the man, several other men ran toward them and started attacking him.

In May, Esskew reported to police that he was involved in another late-night assault.

Esskew told police he was walking from his car to the Heckle Boulevard Bi-Lo store around 1:20 a.m. when a woman yelled a gay slur at him.

Esskew said he turned around and asked, "Excuse me?"

Esskew told police he and another person, a male, exchanged words before Esskew continued walking to the store and was shoved from behind.

Now a defendant

Because Esskew is a victim in another case, the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office will have to decide whether to ask another solicitor to prosecute Esskew in the debit card case.

York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Friday that he'll have to "review the situation between the two cases, the one where (Esskew is) the victim and the one where he's charged to see if there's a conflict of interest."

In similar situations, if the same people are involved in the cases, there may be a conflict of interest, Brackett said. But if the cases are completely unrelated, and "we don't feel that our objectivity in either case would be compromised," Brackett said he'd likely ensure the cases have separate solicitors and instruct them not to discuss the cases with each other.

The solicitor also would take the victim's preference in consideration, he said.

The court awarded Esskew the opportunity for a public defender, but B.J. Barrowclough, an attorney with the York County Public Defender's Office, said Esskew will likely receive a court-appointed attorney, not a county public defender.

The public defender's office already represents one defendant in Esskew's beating in April. It wouldn't be ethical for a public defender to represent Esskew while also representing someone accused of beating him.

Jamie Self 803-329-4062 Andrew Dys 803-329-4065