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FBI: Anti-gay hate crime charges not likely in Georgia arson, vandalism

CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. -- The FBI has launched a preliminary inquiry into the suspected arson at the home of a Carroll County gay man, but the case is likely to remain with the local sheriff’s office, authorities said.

Vandals threatened Chris Staples, 43, on Saturday by throwing a rock wrapped with anti-gay slurs through a window and then, hours later, apparently setting his home on fire. He woke up about 6 a.m. on Sunday with flames filling his bedroom in the home, a converted pool house off a quiet area of Highway 27 near Walker Lake in the county west of Atlanta. He escaped without serious injury and is now staying with friends at an undisclosed location.

The FBI assisted the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office in processing the crime scene and is working with federal prosecutors to see if the case may fall under the jurisdiction of a federal hate crimes statute signed into law in October 2009, according to Special Agent Stephen Emmett, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Atlanta office.

“We are prepared to take a closer look at it, but everything we have so far indicates that the case will stay with Carroll County authorities,” Emmett said Tuesday. “It is not unusual for us to send investigators and crime scene technicians because we are looking to see if it could evolve into a federal prosecution.”

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