A New Boston, Texas, man accused of assaulting a 14-year-old boy because of his skin color pleaded not guilty Monday before a judge in Bowie County.
Charles Mitchell “Mitch” Patton, 25, is charged with injury to a child. Prosecutors have filed a notice in the case that the Bowie County District Attorney’s Office hopes to enhance the punishment Patton faces based on the Texas Hate Crimes Act. A second enhancement refers to Patton’s prior felony conviction for a drug crime.
Instead of two to 10 years in prison, Patton faces five to 99 years or life if a jury finds that he was motivated to commit the crime because of the alleged victim’s race and if it is proved he has a prior felony conviction.
According to a probable cause affidavit, a 14-year-old African American boy was walking down the street where he lives in New Boston on the afternoon of July 28 when the driver of a black Dodge Ram truck pulled to the side of the road. The white man, identified as Patton, allegedly began walking toward the boy as he shouted racial slurs and removed his shirt, revealing a chest tattoo of a swastika.
Patton allegedly told the boy his race wasn’t welcome before striking him in the face with a closed fist. Two other white men who were passengers in Patton’s truck allegedly got out and pulled Patton away from the boy.
The boy’s father called New Boston police. The boy told officers he does not know Patton and did nothing provocative.
“I believe that this assault occurred as prejudice against the juvenile due to his skin color, and I believe this should be classified as a hate crime,” the affidavit states.
Patton appeared before 202nd District Judge John Tidwell for arraignment Monday. Texarkana attorney Joe Tyler entered a plea of not guilty for Patton.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp asked Tidwell for a trial date. The case is scheduled for jury selection in April.