Before dawn on Labor Day, a 24-year-old Springtown, Texas man named Arron Keahey began chatting with another young man named Brice Johnson through a mobile app called MeetMe. The two had never spoken before, and after they had chatted for a little while, the conversation turned sexual. Keahey’s MeetMe page indicated that he was gay. Johnson’s page did not.
Johnson, who is now 19, faces a federal hate crime charge for what happened next.
According to documents filed this month in federal court in Texas, Johnson invited Keahey over to his home in Springtown, and the two of them exchanged cellphone numbers. They then sent each other explicit text messages, and Johnson urged Keahey to hurry on over. Keahey arrived at Johnson’s house a few minutes before 5:30 a.m. Johnson met him outside. Shortly after that, court documents allege, Johnson “severely beat” Keahey, and then stuffed Keahey into the trunk of Keahey’s own car.
Johnson drove Keahey’s car to a family friend’s house, and left Keahey in the trunk. Prosecutors believe that Keahey was bound with an electrical cord at this point, and say that as he came in and out of consciousness in the trunk, he yelled for help. People in the house told Johnson he had to take Keahey to medical care — which he did, dropping Keahey off at an emergency medical services station at about 7 a.m. Johnson told a cop who drove him home that he had found Keahey beaten in the trunk of his own car, and had witnessed a black truck driving away from the scene. But that story quickly crumbled.
The next day, according to the court documents, Keahey spoke again with law enforcement officers, and admitted that he had invited Keahey over. But he claimed that Keahey had grabbed his penis, which prompted him to hit Keahey “about five times.” Johnson told the officers that he wasn’t gay, and while he acknowledged trading sexual messages with Keahey on MeetMe, he said he didn’t think the messages were “for real.” A week later, on Sept. 10, Johnson was arrested. In a jailhouse phone call with a family member, Johnson allegedly said that the assault had been “a joke that went too far.”
“I invited this guy over, right, at first it was basically like a joke that went too far and too wrong,” Johnson said, according to court documents. “I invited him over because he was a fag or whatever.”
Keahey spent 10 days in the hospital being treated for multiple skull and facial fractures. According to prosecutors, he denied having any physical contact with Johnson before the attack. In an interview in September with WFAA, he described Johnson “getting all frustrated and talking all angrily” the morning of the incident.
“Just don’t meet anybody online,” Keahey said. “Don’t trust them.”
Johnson, who has been in state custody since his arrest, was charged with willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. He made his first appearance in court on Thursday, and a motion filed Friday by his public defender indicates that he is seeking a plea deal.
Johnson’s public defender did not immediately return a request for comment from TPM.