Race had nothing to do with an alleged west suburban battery in which the defendant faces hate crime charges, according to his lawyer and family.
Alton Hayes III, 18, of Oak Park, was charged April 17 with attempted robbery, aggravated battery and a hate crime, all felonies, for allegedly robbing and beating up a white 19-year-old man on the 600 block of North Kenilworth Avenue in Oak Park. He reportedly told police after his arrest that he was upset about the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in March.
At the arraignment Friday, Hayes' defense lawyer, Larry E. Smith, said the race issue had "been blown all out of proportion."
"This is not a hate crime. Race had nothing to do with this," he said.
"Someone asked, 'Are you upset about Trayvon Martin?'" Smith said of Hayes’ post-arrest interview. He said Hayes replied, "I don’t even know Trayvon Martin. Why would I be upset?"
Hayes’ father, Alton Hayes Jr., said his son gets along with white people.
"My son grew up [in Oak Park]," he said. "He was raised with white children all his life."
"There’s no way he did this because of race. He never had any problems [with race] and he never will. Most of his friends are white."
Hayes’ girlfriend, Tyasia Wills, agreed. "We hang with white people all the time."
Smith suggested there might be more to the alleged attempted robbery and battery than has been reported. He said the victim in the incident pulled out a box cutter and sliced Hayes’ arm numerous times.
"He’s got cuts up and down his arm," said Smith.
Asked how his son was doing, the elder Hayes said, "Not so good. He’s not used to living in [jail] conditions."
Hayes put on a good face Friday. As he walked into court, he bobbed his head and grinned in his family’s direction.
When he was told his next court date was May 24, he said in a loud and clear voice, "Thank you, your honor. Have a nice day." He turned and waved to his parents and girlfriend.
Smith said he would "aggressively" address the hate crime charge at the May 24 hearing. He also may also seek a lower bond. Hayes is being held in lieu of $80,000 bond.