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December 15, 2011

Suspect avoids prison in assault on Rock Hill gay man

One of the men accused in the April beating of a gay man at a Rock Hill convenience store gets probation after pleading guilty to assault and drug charges.

One of the men accused in the April beating of a gay man at a Rock Hill convenience store pleaded guilty to assault and drug charges Wednesday in court.

Cortezio Laquise Douglas, 21, of Great Falls was sentenced to 30 months suspended time served plus probation on a second-degree assault and battery charge by Judge Eugene C. Griffith Jr. He also will serve a concurrent 18 months suspended time plus probation for charges of possession of cocaine and possession of crack cocaine.

The sentence means that as long as Douglas successfully completes his probation he will not serve jail time.

Douglas was represented by Columbia-based lawyer Hemphill Pride and local public defender B.J. Barrowclough on the drug charges.

The assault and battery charge stems from April 9, when 20-year-old Joshua Esskew was walking into the Spot Convenience Store at 990 S. Cherry Road for a drink, according to reports. Another defendant, 31-year-old Bobby Wilson, allegedly threw a beer bottle at Esskew's head, and the two began to fight.

Douglas and three others - LaJames Mitchell, 22, Darenco Markie Wilmore, 21, and Lortarius Duncan, 22 - allegedly joined in the fight and were charged in the incident. They have not yet had their court dates, although Wilmore is at the Moss Justice Center in York on unrelated charges.

In October, Wilson was issued a $5,000 bond.

Prosecutor Lisa Collins said that Douglas had thrown one punch at Esskew's head.

Pride pointed out that Douglas had not heard any words that might have been spoken by Wilson and Esskew; he had only seen his friend get in trouble and hadn't realized Esskew's punch was in retaliation.

At the time, Esskew said he believed he was beaten because he is gay.

Originally, the prosecution had proposed a charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, but it was lessened to second-degree assault and battery, Collins said.

Pride said that Douglas has two children and another on the way and asked that his sentence allow him to play Santa Claus to his children this holiday season. He also said Douglas would get a job when released.

Esskew did not appear in court.

In October, Esskew was charged with two counts of financial transaction card fraud from when he allegedly used a Rock Hill minister's credit card at a Family Dollar store, according to Rock Hill Police reports.

Collins said Esskew was sentenced to probation last month.

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