Two Beaufort Marines accused of attacking a gay man in downtown Savannah in June will not face federal hate crime charges, an FBI spokesman in Atlanta said Wednesday.
Steve Emmett of the FBI said officials from the U.S. Department of Justice determined the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault June 12 did not warrant the elevated charges.
"The matter now rests with local authorities," Emmett said.
The Marines, assigned to different F-18 Hornet squadrons at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, still face misdemeanor battery charges for allegedly punching the man in the back of the head during an incident near the intersection of Congress and Bull streets.
Savannah-Chatham County police arrested the Marines after finding 27-year-old Kieran Daly unconscious on a downtown sidewalk. Witnesses said the Marines got upset because they thought Daly winked at them and attacked him as he tried to walk away.
The FBI launched a preliminary investigation into whether the attack warranted charges as a federal hate crime.
The Marines accused of attacking Daly -- Cpl. Keil Joseph Cronauer, 22, and Lance Cpl. Christopher Charles Stanzel, 23 -- have been charged with misdemeanor battery in state court. A judge is scheduled to hear the case Sept. 9.
Chatham County prosecutors determined Daly's injuries weren't serious enough to seek felony charges against the Marines, said Alicia Johnson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Larry Chisolm.
Daly said the Marines are getting off light. The attack left him with $30,000 in unpaid medical bills, he says, and he still gets frequent headaches -- though he doesn't know if they come from stress or a lingering injury.
Daly said he's certain he was attacked because he's gay, saying they used slurs.
"I don't have scars, I didn't lose a limb," Daly said. "Psychologically it's done a lot of damage to me. I can't go downtown and walk around by myself even in the daylight without looking over my shoulder."
Attorneys for Cronauer and Stanzel did not immediately return calls Wednesday.