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Morehouse beating heading for trial


Aaron Price seemed to have it all figured out. While he was still in high school in Chicago, he studied hard and planned for a bright future. Catalyst, a Chicago newsmagazine on education, even wrote about Price as he weighed his options and set his sights on Morehouse College.

When Price arrived on campus in August 2001, he brought with him more than $80,000 in scholarship money and a will to succeed.

But a high-achieving student isn't all that law enforcement and local gay activists groups see in Price. According to the district attorney and some members of Atlanta's gay and lesbian community, the 19-year-old is a homophobe who attacked a fellow student with a bat for looking at him while he was in the dorm shower on Nov. 3.

Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter set a June trial date for Price, who's since been expelled from Morehouse and is currently free on $100,000 bond. At his arraignment, Price pleaded not guilty to one charge of aggravated assault and one charge of aggravated battery. Each charge carries a possible 20-year sentence, not to mention an extra five if he's convicted of carrying out a hate crime, which is what District Attorney Paul Howard is looking for.

Price's attorney, Kevin Franks, says the police report doesn't tell the whole story. "He's a young man with a bright future," Franks says. "If you ever have an opportunity to meet Aaron, you would be surprised at how gentle he is."

To Craig Washington, executive director of the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Center, Price's stellar reputation isn't enough to exonerate him.

According to Washington, there are students at Morehouse who think that Price simply did what he had to do, and that attitude needs to be addressed.

But is it fair to make Price the poster boy for homophobia while admitting that attitude was in some ways systemic?

Washington clearly has to wrestle with his feelings on the issue, but in the end, he says it is fair.

"He drew the number, he picked the wrong time to do it. If he had done it 30 years ago it's unlikely that he would have been punished," he says. "I'm not saying bury him under the jail for 40 years, but there is a debt to be paid and sometimes an example has to be made."

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