More than a year after what a judge referred to as a “heinous attack,” the victim of an anti-gay hate crime still awakes each morning in panic.
But tomorrow, that man will rise knowing one of the people responsible for his suffering is serving a four-year sentence.
Corey Robert Welch, 18, of Frederick, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison with all but four suspended after pleading guilty to first-degree assault and a hate crime charge. He’ll receive credit for approximately 15 months served since his arrest. Upon his release, he will undergo five years of supervised probation.
Welch attacked the 23-year-old man while he was trying to leave a house party in New Market in February 2020, according to the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Co-defendant, Ijamsville resident Martin Potomac Gieser, 19, was sentenced to six months in October for second-degree assault related to the attack, online court records show.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded at about 12:30 a.m. Feb. 16, 2020. The victim’s injuries included a concussion, leg injury and swelling and redness around his neck, plus a raspy voice, the state’s attorney’s office said in a news release.
Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Corbett Wilt told Judge Theresa Adams the victim was a “perfect stranger” to Welch, who was 17 at the time of the offense. The case started in juvenile court but was moved to adult court.
The victim tried to leave the party after Welch made comments about the victim’s perceived sexual orientation, Wilt said. While waiting for a ride-share driver, Welch put the man in a headlock, strangled him and caused him to lose consciousness three times. Gieser reportedly held the victim down. Welch and Gieser took the victim’s belongings.
Throughout the attack, Welch hurled anti-gay slurs at the victim, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
Defense attorney Mary Drawbaugh told the judge Welch was “under the throes of his addiction” at the time and has expressed deep remorse to her. Drawbaugh could not be reached for comment after the sentencing.
Before the victim spoke in Circuit Court Wednesday, his cousin held out her hand to him. He clutched it before leaving his seat.
“Every morning, I wake up with panic and anxiety,” the victim said. “I know I will never be the person I was before the attack.”
The man said he’s struggled in his job since then and lost wages. He suffers from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. The victim’s father and cousin spoke to the changes they’ve seen in him.
Welch’s grandmother offered a statement on behalf of the family. They acknowledged Welch made an “irresponsible” decision and should be held accountable but asked for leniency in sentencing. The grandmother and Drawbaugh described Welch as someone who needed treatment for alcohol and drug abuse.
The state’s attorney’s office sought the sentence the judge handed down, noting guidelines recommended between three and eight years incarceration.
Wilt and Assistant State’s Attorney Will Prunka said in a statement afterward the victim and his family felt justice was served.
“Targeting a person because of their perceived sexual orientation is completely unacceptable,” the statement read in part. “The victim and his family are satisfied that justice has been served and that this marks a moment of closure in this terrible ordeal.”
In delivering the sentence, Adams told Welch she had to consider the safety of the community. She acknowledged he’ll be a young man when he is released. Welch did not comment.
“Is this going to be life on the installment plan?” Adams said. “Or are you going to turn it around?”