Gay victim in Rock Hill mob attack refutes roommate's assault claim

sgreene@heraldonline.com, jmcfadden@heraldonline.comDecember 12, 2013 

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— Nearly a week after allegedly assaulting his roommate, Joshua Esskew turned himself in to authorities Wednesday. But he claims an assault never happened.

Esskew, 22, of Rock Hill is the gay victim of a 2011 attack by a mob that sparked national outrage and prompted calls for stricter hate crime laws. He was booked Wednesday at the York County Detention Center and charged with assault and battery, according to police records.

Last Thursday, deputies met with a woman, 24, at the BP gas station at the intersection of Lesslie Highway and South Anderson Road after receiving calls about a fight in the road, according to a York County Sheriff's report states. Deputies found the woman inside. She was crying and talking to someone on the phone. She told the deputy that she was fine, although her roommate, Esskew, hit her.

She told authorities that Esskew had been drinking while giving her a ride, the report states. She chastised him for drinking, so Esskew stopped the car and told her to get out. She told police he punched her in the mouth, leaving her with a busted lip, the report states.

Esskew said he was drinking a soda in the car, not alcohol. The roommate was upset about something else, so she grabbed the soda can from Esskew and "it snapped back and cut her lip," Esskew said Thursday after posting a personal recognizance bond.

"The can busted her lip, not me," Esskew said.

After the altercation, Esskew went inside the store, the report states, but deputies could not find him. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

"I didn't even know there was a warrant until I saw it in the newspaper," Esskew said. "I had to take care of a family thing, but then I turned myself in right away."

Esskew said both he and his roommate are now court-ordered to stay away from each other.

"I'm hurt by what she's done after seven years of friendship," he said. "I'm hurt by how she scandalized me, like I'm a woman beater. I'm not."

On April 9, 2011, five men beat Esskew outside the Spot Convenience Store on Cherry Road. He was glassed in the face, kicked and punched several times before he fell unconscious --all because, he claimed, he “walked gay.” Charges against two of the accused attackers were dismissed, but the three others have been sentenced for their crimes.

Since the mob assault, Esskew had been charged with stealing a credit card from a worker at a church in downtown Rock Hill and making several fraudulent charges. He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation, which was revoked when he failed to report several times. Two months later, he was charged with stealing painkillers from a CVS pharmacy. He pleaded guilty last October, but was sentenced to time served.

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