It's been 11 days since an East Texas mentally challenged man was taken to a field party, beaten and dumped on a deserted county road. Today, four men are being held responsible. Accused in the case are 24-year-old former Cass County Jailer James Corey Hicks, 19-year-old John Wesley Owens, who is the owner of the field where the beating took place, 18-year-old Dallas Chadwick Stone, and 20-year-old Christopher Colt Amox, the man who allegedly threw the punch. All four are charged with aggravated assault. They were released from the Cass County Jail this morning on $30,000 bond.
The victim, Billy Ray Johnson, is still in the Linden Municipal Hospital. A family member, Lue Arthur Wilson was at the jail at the time, and was angry to find out, aggravated assault was the only charge.
"Attempted murder," said Wilson. "That's the only thing that I believe should have been handed down. Attempted murder. Anytime you beat somebody senseless and take them and dump them on the side of the road. That is attempted murder."
Cass county district attorney Randal Lee, says aggravated assault is the appropriate charge at this time.
"Obviously, on attempted murder, you have to prove that they intended to cause the death of an individual," said Lee. "And, it's clear in this case that they didn't intend to kill him or they had plenty of opportunity to do so. Aggravated assault is the same level degree-wise and punishment-wise as attempted murder and lesser burden of proof on our part."
Aggravated assault is a second degree felony, which carries a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If a hate crime enhancement is added, which Lee says is still a possibility, the punishment jumps to 5 to 99 years or life in prison. The investigation is far from over. The suspects will be interviewed again. Billy Ray Johnson's hospital records still need to be analyzed. The case is expected to go before the grand jury in three to four weeks. There's also the FBI's involvement. They continue to move forward with their investigation and could still find, Billy Ray Johnson's civil rights were violated.