NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A man has been sentenced to several years in prison after pleading guilty to charges following what prosecutors say was a “gay panic” beating incident in Norfolk.
On Monday, 36-year-old Michael Tinsley appeared in court and pleaded guilty to charges of strangulation, aggravated malicious wounding, and abduction by force.
The charges stem from a January 2020 incident in which Tinsley severely injured a man in his home in the 1800 block of East Little Creek Road.
Authorities say the victim had been helping Tinsley transition to a new home after the two met while obtaining Veterans Benefits Administration services.
While the reasons for Tinsley’s aggression are not clear, Tinsley, who was intoxicated during the incident, later told police he intended to “beat [the victim] to death” with his bare hands when he woke up to what he believed was a sexual advance from the male victim.
According to the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, Tinsley then spent nearly 30 minutes beating the victim with his fists and a hammer, strangling the victim so hard that Tinsley crushed his windpipe.
The victim lost and regained consciousness several times and was only able to escape when Tinsley physically exhausted himself. At that point, the victim was able to flee to a neighbor, who called 911.
Police responded and arrested Tinsley shortly thereafter.
The victim underwent multiple surgeries, including to correct multiple broken bones and to install a plate in his throat, and he continues to have balance and speech problems following the incident.
Following his guilty plea, a judge sentenced Tinsley to serve five years in prison for strangulation; 25 years, with 17 years suspended, for aggravated malicious wounding; and 10 years, all suspended, for abduction. He will serve a total of 13 years behind bars.
Tinsley’s previous criminal record includes a 2011 charge of assault and battery from Michigan.
“Hate and violence have no place in Norfolk,” says Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi following TInsley’s sentencing. “Whatever set off Mr. Tinsley that night, ‘gay panic’ is never a defense in Norfolk or in Virginia.”
Tinsley’s suspended sentences are conditioned upon indeterminate supervised probation and 20 years of uniform good behavior upon his release from prison, as well as no contact with the victim.
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