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Pruett charged with alleged hate crime incident in Appleton

APPLETON, WI (WTAQ) - A man is charged with a hate crime in the city of Appleton.

Police Sgt. Dave Lund tells FOX 11 the alleged incident happened Monday night.

Lund says Thomas Pruett was with a group of people at Jones Park, including a person who was born a man, but now identifies as a woman.

According to Lund, Pruett started verbally attacking that person. 

"There were slurs towards the victim's gender identity at the time of the incident," explained Lund.

Authorities say Pruett attacked the victim for using what he said was the wrong bathroom. 

"They were gong into the men's bathroom, the person came up to the victim and kicked the victim in the ribs, started beating the victim," explained Kathy Flores, the Diversity Coordinator for the City of Appleton. 

According to Flores, the victim was left with a broken eye socket bone, cuts and bruises. 

Pruett is now facing substantial battery and disorderly conduct charges, both with hate crime enhancers. That means Pruett could face an additional 6 years in prison if convicted on both charges.

Gender identity falls under Wisconsin hate crime statutes. 

"The hate crime enhancer is out there to protect people," explained Lund. 

Appleton recently started a campaign called INCLUDE to show support for the LGBT community.  The campaign featured events like an anti-bullying film screening.

Pruett's preliminary hearing is scheduled for next week.